ONDCP

RSS Feed for this category

Review of Lies, Damned Lies and Drug War Statistics by Matt B. Robinson and Renee G. Scherlen (SUNY Press, 2007).

(Click here to read about DRCNet's book offer for members.) Reviewed by Randall G. Shelden, UNLV Looking back on my career and what I have learned there is a rather consistent theme in my thinking and writing about the subject of crime and justice. It might go something like this: we have a system in place that has a vested interest in keeping crime (including drug use) at a certain level. All sorts of careers and a lot of money (literally tens of billions of dollars each year) are dependent upon a steady supply of offenders - even if they have to pass new laws creating new categories of offenders (this especially applies to drugs). This is why many have used such terms like "crime control industry" or "criminal justice industrial complex." Agencies within this complex can sort of "have their cake and eat it too" in that they can have it both ways: when what they do is clearly failing they can merely claim that the problem still exists and they need to continuing doing the same thing (with more money of course). Obviously when things are going well they can take responsibility. This is the pattern with local police departments and in fact the entire system, namely that when crime is down they take credit because of some program in place; however, when crime goes up, they can shift responsibility to all sorts of variables. Favorites include a growing population in their jurisdiction (which is not usually that relevant), a growing youth or "crime risk" population (again, not that critical), "broken" or "dysfunctional" families and, two of my favorites, "outside influences" (e.g., gangs moving) or "liberal programs." Another way of putting this is that, as Jeff Reiman has observed, nothing succeeds like failure! A friend once told me something he learned when studying for his MBA. It is called "optimal starting and stopping points." What this means is that in order to bolster your argument or to make a case that what you are doing is working you pick out a time period that best represents your success and avoid time periods that do not. So it has been with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Matt Robinson and Renee Scherlen do an exceptional job of showing exactly this in Damned Lies and Drug War Statistics. They do this by critically examining six years (2000-2006) of the National Drug Control Strategy. They read through each and every annual report, looking especially for both accurate and inaccurate use of statistics and evidence of honesty and dishonesty in each report. They examined each and every claim made by ONDCP and evaluated ONDCP's stated goals (e.g., reducing drug use and drug availability). What they found for each year, almost without exception, was an almost total misuse of some very simple statistics (e.g., from various annual drug surveys, such as NHSDA, ADAM, MTF). They discovered that in many instances ONDCP employed the "optimal starting and stopping points." For instance, Robinson and Scherlen found that for the 2000 strategy report ONDCP uses a baseline of 1985 that shows a decline in drug use from that year to 1999. Yet the ONDCP was not started until 1988 and the largest drop in drug use was between 1985 and 1988, with the rate remaining steady for the rest of the decade. Other reports use 1979 as a starting point (the peak of drug use). On another occasion the ONDCP claims to prove that George Bush's goal during his 2002 "State of the Union speech of a 10% reduction of drug use by youth within two years was met, but uses a time period that started one year prior to Bush's speech! The authors also found numerous instances where they cite declines in youth drug use during a certain period, but ignore the fact that drug use was increasing among adults. In some cases the ONDCP reproduces a chart that clearly shows drug use increasing, but fail to comment on this rather obvious evidence of failure. On the other hand, on some occasions the ONDCP readily admits "disturbing trends" such as the fact that throughout the decade of the 1990s drug use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders (Monitoring the Future) is "close to record highs." Yet in this case, the ONDCP sort of ignores such an obvious failure and instead uses this as evidence of a need to get tougher in the war on drugs! Nothing succeeds like failure! Robinson and Scherlen note that ONDCP tends to "celebrate declines even when they are short-term or occurred a decade ago, and downplay increases unless they are being used to create alarm" (p. 66). More examples like this are presented throughout this book. Perhaps more importantly, even when there are some decreases in drug use, ONDCP fails to provide any evidence that this is because of what they did. Moreover, like I said above concerning police departments, Robinson and Scherlen note that "ONDCP only takes credit when drug use trends decline, but takes no responsibility when drug use trends increase" (p. 68). One of the most important chapters in this book is chapters 5 and 6 where they examine ONDCP's claims of success in "healing America's drug users and disrupting drug markets" and claims concerning the costs of the drug war. In these two chapters Robinson and Scherlen also critically examine ONDCP claims about the nature of the drug problem itself. First, ONDCP fails to differentiate between drug use and drug abuse and instead claims that "Drug use promises one thing but delivers something else – something sad and debilitating for users, their families, and their communities. The deception can be masked for some time, and it is during this time that the habit is 'carried' by users to other vulnerable young people." This is an outlandish claim totally lacking empirical foundation. As Robinson and Scherlen correctly note, drug use does not lead to such outcomes and in fact the majority of youths who use drugs do so only a few times and quit completely in their early 20s (p. 96). Such a conclusion is a general consensus by drug experts – obviously a group ONDCP fails to consult! ONDCP also claims that drug testing is effective, yet can cite only anecdotal evidence (such as a statement by one woman based upon a one conversation with a grocery bagger – see p. 102) and ignore comprehensive studies that find that it clearly does not work (e.g., as cited on the Monitoring the Future web site). This is called "confirmation bias" – selecting evidence that supports your position while ignoring contrary evidence. The ONDCP clearly has failed to disrupt drug markets and there has been a steady decline in the price of illegal drugs, as Robinson and Scherlen clearly show with charts taken from ONDCP's report. Yes, you read this correctly: ONDCP reproduces charts that show prices falling yet fail to make any statement that suggests that their goal of raising prices by disrupting drug markets is not working! This is one of the best points about the Robinson and Scherlen book in that they use readily available data – some reproduced by ONDCP – which clearly contradict ONDCP's claims! Robinson and Scherlen also examined claims about the costs of drugs and the drug war. Once again, they demonstrate that ONDCP misuses statistics. Here the authors show that the bulk of the costs of drugs stems from the drug war itself and the fact that some drugs have been criminalized. I could go on and on with more examples. Suffice it to say that Robinson and Scherlen have provided a thorough critique of the claims made by those in charge of the drug war. This book will no doubt prove to be a valuable resource for those trying to make sense of a war that has created so much havoc within our society. Incidentally, the first two chapters provide the reader with an excellent overview on the how the drug war came to be, including a brief history of anti-drug legislation. For those not familiar with this history, these chapters will provide much needed information to fill this gap. Read it, learn from it, use it. Randall G. Shelden is Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where he has been a faculty member since 1977. He is the author or co-author of several books, including Girls, Delinquency and Juvenile Justice (3rd edition), with Meda Chesney-Lind (which received the Hindelang Award for outstanding contribution to Criminology in 1992); Youth Gangs in American Society (3rd ed.), with Sharon Tracy and William B. Brown (both with Wadsworth); Controlling the Dangerous Classes: A History of Criminal Justice (2nd forthcoming, Allyn and Bacon); Criminal Justice in America: A Critical View, with William B. Brown (a revised edition of this book is forthcoming with Waveland Press). His most recent book is Delinquency and Juvenile Justice in American Society (Waveland Press). His web site is: www.sheldensays.com. (Click here to read about DRCNet's book offer for members.)

Book Offer: Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/drugwarstatisticsbook.jpg
Normally when we publish a book review in our Drug War Chronicle newsletter, it gets readers but is not among the top stories visited on the site. Recently we saw a big exception to that rule when more than 2,700 of you read our review of the new book Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Much of this reading took place during a week that had other very popular articles as well, so clearly the topic of this book, which was authored by respected academics Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen, has struck a chord. As well it should.

Please help DRCNet continue our own work of debunking drug war lies with a generous donation. If your donation is $32 or more, we'll send you a complimentary copy of Robinson and Scherlen's book to help you be able to debunk drug war lies too.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging on our web site about things I've learned reading Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics. Stay tuned!

Your donation will help DRCNet as we advance what we think is an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support, and hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,


David Borden
Executive Director

P.S. You can read Chronicle editor Phil Smith's review of the book here.

Book Offer: Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/drugwarstatisticsbook.jpg
Normally when we publish a book review in our Drug War Chronicle newsletter, it gets readers but is not among the top stories visited on the site. Recently we saw a big exception to that rule when more than 2,700 of you read our review of the new book Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Much of this reading took place during a week that had other very popular articles as well, so clearly the topic of this book, which was authored by respected academics Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen, has struck a chord. As well it should.

Please help DRCNet continue our own work of debunking drug war lies with a generous donation. If your donation is $32 or more, we'll send you a complimentary copy of Robinson and Scherlen's book to help you be able to debunk drug war lies too.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging on our web site about things I've learned reading Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics. Stay tuned!

Your donation will help DRCNet as we advance what we think is an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support, and hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,


David Borden
Executive Director

P.S. You can read Chronicle editor Phil Smith's review of the book here.

Nobody Likes The Drug Czar

Part 5 of NPR's disappointing series "The Forgotten War on Drugs" takes aim at Drug Czar John Walters:
During the course of research for this series, it became apparent that many prominent players in the war on drugs don't have many compliments for the current drug czar, John Walters.


Though President Bush appointed Walters to be the public face of the war on drugs, some anti-drug activists say he's been the invisible man.
What, is he supposed to go around racially profiling people and asking for consent to search?
Gen. Barry McCaffrey was drug czar from 1996 to 2001. He says, bluntly, that as far as he can tell, there is no federal drug policy at present.
Really? Tell that to the half-million non-violent drug offenders sitting in prison this evening. Yeah, we all miss the good old days when Barry McCaffrey was in charge and America was drug free.
Four members of Congress — all prominent drug warriors — have asked for the drug czar's resignation. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) says Walters, even more than his predecessors, manipulates numbers to inflate the Bush administration's successes in drug policy.

"When it comes to statistics, I think it's fair to say they cook the books," Grassley said. "They use whatever statistics fit their public relations program."

The drug czar's office says that Grassley was "badly briefed."
Badly briefed by whom? This is hilarious. But to be fair, the drug czar's office is a "public relations program." ONDCP's resident doctor/scientist David Murray explains:
"My sense would be you're talking to the wrong people," Murray said. "You are talking with people who have a partial and mis-clarified sense of what the office does."
Exactly. ONDCP's purpose is to claim that the drug war works. You've got a better chance of getting stoned on marijuana-flavored lollipops than expecting candor or humility from this organization.  ONDCP is like a weatherman that always predicts sunshine. If you get soaked, it's your own fault for watching the fake weather report.
Of the more than 100 anti-drug professionals across America interviewed for this series — in overseas operations, domestic law enforcement, treatment and prevention — very few share the rhetoric of this drug czar: that we are "winning the drug war."
Are we witnessing the beginnings of a major rift within the drug war establishment? ONDCP's fraudulent routine of claiming progress in the drug war is no longer impressing its core audience. As a result, confused drug war supporters like NPR's Burnett, along with Lou Dobbs and others, have found themselves in the awkward position of articulating the failure of our current policies while simultaneously demanding their expansion.

This is terrible reporting to be sure, but at least the "how to win?" crowd isn't proposing specific policy solutions. Dobbs and Burnett are amplifying the message that the drug war is failing, and turning to ONDCP for answers it can't give.

These frustrated observers might want to begin by learning that it isn't ONDCP's fault the drug war doesn't work. But I'm all for firing John Walters on the off-chance that he bugs out like Michael Douglas in Traffic and admits the whole thing is a sham. That would be grand.


Location: 
United States

Drug Czar Blasted for Lack of Leadership

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
NPR
URL: 
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9413890

Pushing Crap: 24 Hours Of ONDCP Blogging Boggles the Brain

At tremendous risk to my sanity, I read ONDCP's blog Pushingback.com so you don’t have to. Keep in mind that the following was posted sequentially within a 24 hour period:

First ONDCP criticizes Gov. Bill Richardson for signing New Mexico's medical marijuana law:

Medical Marijuana in New Mexico: A Triumph of Politics Over Science


Next, it reports that prescription drugs now kill almost as many people as murderers:

Report: Prescription Drugs Deaths Nearly Equal Murders


Then it follows up with this:

"Anti-pot Message Needs to be Louder."


The announcement that prescription drugs are killing people at alarming rates is sandwiched between two hysterical posts about medical marijuana. Apparently, it requires massive loss of human life to distract ONDCP even briefly from its frantic campaign against patients with pot.

Meanwhile, murderous FDA-approved medicines are massacring Americans left and right, a fact to which the ONDCP pays lip service before exclaiming, in its very next post, that medical marijuana must really be very dangerous precisely because it hasn't been approved by the FDA.

ONDCP's mantra that FDA-approved medicines are safe and effective and that non-approved medicines are dangerous and unpredictable is exposed as utterly hollow and meaningless right on the front page of its own blog. And they have no clue because the actual human consequences of various medical decisions are the furthest thing from their minds when they write this malicious drivel.

Only by ending the fraudulent campaign against marijuana can the anti-drug movement salvage the credibility necessary to warn people about drugs that can kill you. But they're not ready for that. ONDCP is still busy touting these very same killer drugs as alternatives to medical marijuana. If attempting to comprehend the unintended irony of all this makes you nauseous, you're not alone.
Location: 
United States

Reefer Madness

Location: 
TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Austin Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Issue/column?oid=oid%3A463093

Book Offer: Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/drugwarstatisticsbook.jpg
Normally when we publish a book review in our Drug War Chronicle newsletter, it gets readers but is not among the top stories visited on the site. Recently we saw a big exception to that rule when more than 2,700 of you read our review of the new book Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Much of this reading took place during a week that had other very popular articles as well, so clearly the topic of this book, which was authored by respected academics Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen, has struck a chord. As well it should.

Please help DRCNet continue our own work of debunking drug war lies with a generous donation. If your donation is $32 or more, we'll send you a complimentary copy of Robinson and Scherlen's book to help you be able to debunk drug war lies too.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging on our web site about things I've learned reading Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics. Stay tuned!

Your donation will help DRCNet as we advance what we think is an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support, and hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,


David Borden
Executive Director

P.S. You can read Chronicle editor Phil Smith's review of the book here.

Anti-drug program ripped off, probe says

Location: 
Tucson, AZ
United States
Publication/Source: 
Arizona Daily Star
URL: 
http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/176816

Op-Ed: Dionne L. Koller: Athletes' due process rights

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Sacramento Bee
URL: 
http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/148094.html

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School

StopTheDrugWar Video Archive