The House I live In; can we say “Insane Drug War”?

I finally got The House I Live In from my Netflix queue last week. I tweeted several times about it, but I just feel like this subject deserves more light (hashtag search on twitter) since a quarter of our prison population (still the highest per capita of any country in the world) 500,000 people, are held for non-violent drug offenses.

The House I Live In Official Trailer #1 (2012)

As the film goes into at great length, the drug war really isn’t about drugs, it is about poverty and race; as drugs used by poor immigrant minorities are almost always the target until you get to the modern day and methamphetamine.  It still targets the poor, but now those poor are largely white people.

The film lends weight to President Obama’s (belated) recent move to offer clemency to people convicted and sentenced under harsh mandatory minimum drug laws that had people being put away for life for possession of a few ounces of cocaine.  Those of us interested in justice on this subject continue to hope that this turns into more than a PR stunt.


Carl Hart and his book High Price were the big finds in this film, although his screen time was pretty light. I’ve seen him a few times since the film came out including on MSNBC with Chris Hayes

Dr Carl HartMeth & Adderall are the same drug & other drug facts – Nov 5, 2015

Did you know “meth mouth” is fake? Or that meth has the same effect on the brain as Adderall? Oh, you probably think crack cocaine addicts can’t think rationally, but actually they can…and they do! Columbia Professor Dr. Carl Hart sits down with Chris Hayes for an extended interview to debunk the myths we buy into surrounding drug addiction.

I struggled with getting a version of the All-In interview to show up on the blog through several edits. Luckily I stumbled across Dr. Hart’s Youtube channel in the process. While looking for linkable video that would actually play in a blog format, I found this video of him on TYT.

TYT InterviewsChallenging Society’s View on Drugs – Dr. Carl Hart – Jun 25, 2013

Yea, it’s an hour, so sue me (Youtube video should be under 5 minutes, purportedly) He’s a very engaging speaker, and he has a story to tell. What kind of story?  Well, how about the fact that Philip Seymour Hoffman would still be alive today had we actually invested in a proper drug education program all those years ago when Nixon decided to declare his racist war on drugs.


The thing to remember about the drug war is, it isn’t our first attempt at prohibition; and the first attempt wasn’t a success, either.  Contrary to popular belief, it appears that jury nullification ended up being the death knell of alcohol prohibition, with prosecutors being unable to get convictions from juries for alcohol crimes.  Something to remember as this attempt a prohibition turns a corner and is revealed as the failure that it is.  If you find yourself on a drug trial jury, remember that you have the right to sit in judgement of the law as well as being the judge of the accused. Visit the Fully Informed Jury Association for more info on that score.

We are the government.  We ultimately decide which laws will be enforced, and which will not.  We need to find our feet again as a people, and stand up for justice; not just in this instance, but across the board.

Discord Over Harmony Schools

This is an example of real harm resulting from the religious posing of Texas leaders.

Harmony schools are charter schools in Texas; they are unquestionable successes in the realm of schooling, in fact. Two of their high schools were named in Newsweek as “miracle schools” representing the best of the best to be had in education in the entire United States, much less in Texas.

But that’s not good enough for those conspiracy theorists out there who see different as threatening and Muslim as terrorist. Almost since the day they opened their doors, Harmony Schools have been the target of hate groups throughout the state.

Led by the Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative pro-family organization, Harmony’s critics have issued a flurry of legislative alerts in recent weeks that said the state’s $25 billion endowment for “our children’s textbooks” was imperiled by “Turkish men, of whom we know very little other than most are not American citizens.”

They gathered enough momentum that earlier this week some conservative legislators cited the concerns when they voted against a key budget bill — and almost killed it.

But one conservative protector of the endowment, the Permanent School Fund, says the criticism of Harmony is unfounded.

“There is a lot of misinformation, a certain level of fear and a small helping of bigotry that needs to go away,” said State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

Bradley said he would be the “first to sound the alarm” if there were anything to be alarmed about. But the board has not received substantive complaints from parents of the 16,000 children that attend any of the 33 Harmony campuses across the state, he said.

“The only thing these guys are guilty of are high scores and being Turkish,” Bradley said.

(from Austin-American Statesman)

Love the way the article soft-pedals the Texas Eagle Forum. They are a hate group, and should be rightly labeled as such. I have yet to hear of anything they support that isn’t related in some fashion to the stupid people observation I made in the last post.

So, not content to simply make themselves look like idiots, they want to incur unnecessary costs on the cash strapped school system, and the even more cash starved charter schools.

House General Investigating Committee Chairman Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, said his committee has started a preliminary look-see into Harmony “and all the other charter school operators in the state.

“It’s nothing criminal. We just want to see whether they are spending our (state) money wisely,” he said. “There have been some concerns about (Harmony) building schools without competitive bidding, and about other issues, but we are going to looking at every one of the charters.”

(from Austin-American Statesman)

Harmony schools are on record in that article as “welcoming the investigation” but I can’t imagine a group in their position daring to even suggest that the waste of time and money involved in investigating superior schools (for any other reason than to determine and duplicate their superior tactics) might not be welcome. Jack-booted fear mongers tend to not react well when their authority is questioned…

Sunset the SBOE. It’s the Only Viable Solution.

Textbooks from ten years ago the subject of a current resolution; and even at that, erroneous conclusions from 10 year old textbooks. Why hasn’t the SBOE been sunset yet? Clearly, they don’t have enough real work to keep them busy.

Attacking Religious Freedom: The Anti-Islam Resolution

After recklessly politicizing new social studies curriculum standards just months ago, the Texas State Board of Education wasted no time manufacturing another political controversy instead of focusing on the education of public school students. In July a failed state board candidate, Randy Rives of Odessa, asked the board to adopt a resolution condemning what he alleges are “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias” in social studies textbooks. Here is a short clip of Rives introducing his resolution in July, comparaing the “pro-Islam” agenda in textbooks to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s declaration that he would take over America without firing a shot:

The proposed resolution, now championed by far-right members of the board, includes a variety of disingenuous claims designed to demonstrate the alleged bias in high school world history textbooks published in 1999. A Texas Freedom Network analysis shows that the resolution and its supporting materials are based on claims that are superficial and grossly misleading. Further, examples cited in the resolution come from world history books no longer used in Texas schools. Yet the board is set to consider the measure at its September 22-24 meeting in Austin.

This resolution is another example of state board members putting politics ahead of expertise and refusing to consider the advice of real scholars before doing something provocative and divisive. Indeed, the board has asked no scholars or other experts for public advice about the resolution. Moreoever, the resolution insists that the board has the authority to reject any proposed textbooks that do not deal with Christianity and Islam as board members desire. As a result, this measure represents and end-run around Texas law barring the board from editing or censoring textbooks.

The Texas Freedom Network believes textbooks should treat all religions with respect and dignity. This ill-considered resolution, however, is simply a thinly veiled attempt to generate fear and promote religious intolerance. And more than this, it involves our children in a divisive political debate that has no place in Texas classrooms.

Fellow Travelers

I passed a stranded car on the way into the neighborhood to pick up the wife last night (early this morning, whatever) she wanted a soda for wake up time in the morning. I was almost home from another errand, so we agreed we could just go back out and get it together. On the way back out of the neighborhood I noticed the car was still there.

Man and a woman, standing on the side of the road, gas can in hand. Clearly in need of assistance.
You never know what you’re in for these days, stopping to help people on the side of the road; but they were in our neighborhood, not out on the highway. It was late, and she did have the gas can.

So, with the wife’s assent, I stopped and asked if I could help them. The woman was overjoyed, and shooed her husband back into the car while she climbed into the back seat of our road worn Saturn.

She thanked us over and over again, and amongst the other small talk the occurred during the short drive, she voiced her incredulity that “none of her people would even stop to help her”.

Anyone who’s read this blog for awhile will know that I don’t believe in drawing lines based on skin color and calling that ‘race’. However, her skin was black, so I can only assume that she meant black people wouldn’t stop and help her. At the time, I was focused on driving and muttered something about “not knowing what you are getting into, stopping to help people on the road these days”; which were my reservations, originally.

The wife, who has had to make hard decisions about helping people in the past (including picking up a half naked girl in the park, who was being loudly pursued by a boyfriend intent on killing her. That’s another story, though) kept up a lively chatter as we fruitlessly tried to find an open gas station. Third time was the charm though, and we got the woman safely back to her car and husband, wished her good luck and a safe drive, and headed back toward the house.

If I had been thinking about the subject at the time, I would have liked to let her know that she was picked up by one of her people. Both the wife and I have been stranded by the side of the road before, because we failed to notice the emptiness of the gas tank; not to mention the times our cars have just flat out failed us. On those occasions, fellow travelers have come through for us, and helped out when they could. They were our people then, and we were her people, now.

We are all fellow travelers on the road, just trying to get from point A to point B on the map. Anyone who helps you achieve that goal is someone you should be glad to have met. A friend in need, one of your people. Glad to be of assistance.

Standard American Mutt

Every time I take a survey, I get pissed off.

Why? Because in every survey, the bean counters in charge of it want to nail down exactly what group I’m a part of, so that they can massage their numbers to get the answers they want. Amongst the male or female, married or single, how much money do I make type questions, they inevitably ask “what is your race?”

Hell if I know, I’ve never done a genealogy on my family history. The subject is about as interesting as watching paint dry. My skin’s white, sure enough. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Ancestry determines what type of blood runs in your veins; and only working with the surnames of my grandparents, I can claim German, French and English blood (Caucasoid? WTF is that?) Who knows what else has been thrown in there over the last couple of hundred years? In my estimation that makes me a Standard American Mutt.

‘Race’ is an illusion anyway. The behavior attributed to ‘race’ is nothing more than ethnic culture; the absorbed societal norms which influence the thinking of an individual, and culture changes from generation to generation (and the people who wish to preserve their ethnicity are fighting an losing battle on a constantly shifting slope) The genetic differences between the ‘races’ are no greater than the genetic differences between individuals of the same race. So what does it mean to claim membership in a particular race? Bragging rights?

Beats me. I’m proud to proclaim myself a ‘mutt’. Now if I can just get the people printing forms and writing surveys to include Standard American Mutt as one of the choices…