Congress

RSS Feed for this category

Lost This One, But Not As Bad As It Sounds

Special thanks to the roughly 1,000 DRCNet supporters who lobbied their Representatives in Congress to reject H.R. 5295, the so-called "Student and Teacher Safety Act." The House of Representatives unfortunately passed the bill, on a voice vote, which means there is no record of who voted yes and who voted no. It is also possible that there might not have really been the 2/3 majority needed to pass it, but without a member of Congress calling for a roll call, that is left up to the ear of the member leading the session. While a few Democrats did speak against the bill, none of them requested a voice vote, probably out of fear that Republican challengers would use the "Rep. So and So voted against a bill to keep kids away from drugs and guns" line in the upcoming campaigns in this high-stakes election season. It's not as bad as it sounds. Most importantly, it is only the House of Representatives that passed the bill. If it doesn't come up and get passed by the Senate -- and we know of no current plans to take it up there -- it will not become law. Secondly, it was exciting to see major, mainstream educational organizations like the PTA come out against the bill. (See Drug War Chronicle later this week for a full report.) And, your support and the work done by our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy and other groups showed that our side is able to mobilize. You can't win all of them, but today's loss notwithstanding our side is winning more than we used to, and I believe we'll get there.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Watch School Search Bill Debate Online

CLICK HERE FOR LATEST UPDATE UPDATE: It's on right now (5:39pm). Turn on C-Span or go to c-span.org, section "live streams." Nearly a thousand DRCNet supporters have contacted Congress in opposition to the increasingly infamous "Student and Teacher Safety Act" as of the time of this writing. If you're not one of them, and if the vote hasn't happened by the time you read this, and if you're a US voter, click here to add your voice to the chorus of opposition. We have allies too: Among the letters sent to Congress by major national organizations is this one from the American Federation of Teachers. If the vote hasn't happened yet (they have one more bill to go through first), you can see it on C-Span via cable TV or on the C-Span web site. (Scroll down to "live streams.")
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

ALERT: Congress to Vote on Dangerous New Student Search Bill This Tuesday, 9/19

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://ga0.org/campaign/searches_bill

ONDCP: Senate Panel Recommends Cutting Salaries at Drug Czar's Office

The Congress is getting increasingly testy with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and in a sharp signal of its unhappiness with the performance of ONDCP head John Walters, the drug czar, a Senate panel is recommending that salaries and expenses at ONDCP be slashed by well over half, from $26.6 million this year to $11.5 million next year.

Although Walters has been able to tout such successes as marginal declines in drug use rates among selected groups -- especially teenagers -- he has come under tough attack from congressional drug warriors, especially over ONDCP's halting response to the spread of methamphetamine. Walters and ONDCP are also taking flak for supporting the Bush administration's calls to slash funding for grants to help local law enforcement form drug task forces and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas.

ONDCP has 111 full-time employees. As its director, Walters earns $183,000 a year.

He isn't worth it, the Senate Appropriations Committee signaled. In its July vote on an appropriations bill, the committee recommended the deep cuts, saying the reductions would "more closely reflect actual performance."

In that legislation, the committee called for independent evaluations of ONDCP and demanded documentation of travel records, salaries, and contracts. The committee also complained that Walters and ONDCP have been unresponsive to congressional requests for information and have prevented program directors from meeting with the committee.

"This kind of unresponsiveness... results in an unnecessary waste of time and energy," the bill states. "Numerous follow-up communications are required in almost every instance."

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) chairs the subcommittee with oversight over ONDCP. His spokesman, Rob Ostrander, told the Associated Press Walters had a bad habit of not paying attention to committee requests. "Unfortunately, this has been a long-term problem," Ostrander said. "The agency has a record of being unresponsive to committee staff. We hope that changes, because at the end of the day we need to ensure taxpayers' money is being spent wisely."

Sen. Joe Biden took to the Senate floor last week to complain about Walters. "Under him, the office operates like an ivory tower rather than the command center for our national drug control policy," Biden said.

The budgets cuts are likely to end up being restored, but even threatening to cut the once sacrosanct drug czar's budget is an indication that times are changing.

Panel Advises Cutting Salaries at Agency (ONDCP)

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://dwb.sacbee.com/24hour/politics/story/3371410p-12405350c.html

Hastert's Office Balks at Counter-Narcotics Plan

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Hill
URL: 
http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/Business/091206_narcotics.html

Many Partisans on Both Sides Get Drug Policy Wrong, Blogosphere Shows

Last Friday the blogosphere provided a good example of how readily even political progressives can fail to see the important points in drug policy. A post in Bob Geiger's U.S. Senate Report titled "Bill to Cripple Taliban Drug Trade Passes -- After GOP Tries to Kill It" informs us that Republican senators had unsuccessfully tried to block an amendment by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to put $700 million into the latest defense appropriations bill for suppression of Afghanistan's opium trade. Schumer explained, "The Taliban draws its strength from the drug trade and in order to prevent them from reclaiming the country, we need to crack down the drugs that fuel their regime. We need to ensure that the Department of Defense has the resources available to attack this problem before it becomes far worse." Geiger, a partisan whose web site solicits "liberal love" and "conservative castigation" by e-mail, described the Republican effort as "inexplicable," remarks that it "will leave you shaking your head and asking yourself whose side Republicans are really on," and reports that "[f]ortunately... it passed with the support of a handful of Republican votes." Anti-war liberals like Geiger ought to also oppose the Drug War. An article we published in Drug War Chronicle Friday discusses in depth why opium eradication in reality is an extraordinarily bad idea that will strengthen the Taliban mightily by pushing countless poor farmers who are surviving on opium growing into their hands. Opium production is literally the backbone of Afghanistan's economy, and wiping it out at this point, even if that could be accomplished, would plunge the nation into chaos beyond anything before seen. While I doubt Geiger will be moved by the fact that libertarian free-marketeer Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute thinks the only satisfactory way of addressing the situation is through legalization, perhaps he'll pay some attention to the Brookings Institution fellow or the Univ. of Nebraska Afghan scholar we quoted. At a minimum he ought to at least note for his readers that not everyone thinks eradication is a good idea and that a radically different scheme, licensing the opium for the medical market, which stops short of legalization, is being fairly extensively discussed, including by high-level people in our NATO ally countries who are suffering an increasing share of the casualties. This is simply not the cut-and-dried issue Geiger has taken it to be. Geiger's piece was republished in the widely-read Huffington Post blog -- ironically, given Arianna Huffington's own longstanding opposition to the drug war. I don't know that she has specifically written about the Afghan opium conundrum, but in both her conservative past and her liberal present she has been a strong voice on the issue. The summer 2000 "Shadow Conventions" in Philadelphia and LA, in fact, which Arianna spearheaded, adopted opposition to the drug war as one of the three primary issue tracks. Nothing in this post should be interpreted as implying that the Republican Party is good on the drug issue either. Just in case I'm about to get slammed as "right-wing," look a little bit up on this web page in the "Higher Education Act Reform Campaign" block for a photo from the press conference we organized where ten Democratic members of Congress spoke. Or click here for a picture of me and outspokenly liberal Congressman Jim McDermott chatting last year at our Seattle event. And just in case anyone thinks we're soft on the Taliban -- be aware that we condemned them back in 1997, when the UN and the Clinton administration were working on funding them.
Location: 
United States

Senate Adopts $700 Million for Halting Opium Production

press release from Drug Policy Alliance For Immediate Release: September 7, 2006 Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 OR Bill Piper (202) 669-6430 The Senate approved by voice vote an amendment to the fiscal 2007 Defense spending bill (HR 5631) to add $700 million in emergency spending to combat opium and heroin production in Afghanistan and Iraq, after rejecting 45-51 a motion to table the amendment. This comes on the heels of a recent report by the Senlis Council - a U.K. think tank - that found that counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan over the last five years have facilitated insurgency, laying the groundwork for the Taliban to return to power. The Senlis Council suggests moving Afghanistan towards controlled, licensed poppy production for use in making opium-based medicines. Statement from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance:
“A large scale eradication campaign would be a political disaster. It would send hundreds of thousands of Afghanis into hunger, even starvation and the arms of the Taliban while enriching and empowering the warlords who control the business. “Even if opium were to disappear from Afghanistan, whether as a result of eradication efforts or bad weather, it would only move elsewhere, with potentially even more problematic repercussions. “Legalization of opium may or may not be the solution, but the refusal to even engage the debate reflects the intellectual and political cowardice of current U.S. policy in Afghanistan. “A better solution would be to make effective treatment as easily and broadly available to people struggling with heroin addiction all around the world.”
###
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Mandatory Minimums Panel at Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference

Thursday, Sept. 7: Congressional Black Caucus panel on mandatory sentences

Dear FAMM supporters,

We invite you to attend an important panel discussion on mandatory sentences as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 36th Annual Legislative Conference on Thursday, September 7, 2006.

Rep. Maxine Waters is hosting "Continuing the Struggle to Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in the Criminal Justice System," from 3 to 5:30 pm in Room 140-A of the Washington Convention Center, located at 801 Mount Vernon Place, N.W., Washington, D.C.

Panelists include Julie Stewart, President of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project; Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst of the Open Society Policy Center; Roosevelt Dorn, Mayor of Inglewood, Calif., and John F. Street, Mayor of Philadelphia.

The Washington Convention Center is METRO accessible and street parking is also available. Please arrive at least 15 minutes early to locate Room 140-A and obtain seating.

For more information, contact Angelyn Frazer, FAMM organizing director, at (202) 822-6700.

Location: 
United States

Feature: Federal Sentencing Reform Goes NASCAR

With the federal prison system stuffed to the gills and still growing, pressure for sentencing reform is building. One bill aimed at helping ex-offenders, the Second Chance Act, is moving in Congress and could pass this fall. Coming right behind it is H.R. 3072, a bill that would reintroduce parole into the federal system. And in a novel effort to broaden support for the parole bill, some of its supporters are bringing the issue to the massive NASCAR racing audience.

In the first of series of NASCAR events, on August 23 the Carter 2 Motorsports team will compete in the race at Bristol, Tennessee, using that opportunity to publicize the parole bill, as well as the organizations backing the effort, Federal CURE and FreeFeds. More than 160,000 are expected to attend, with a television audience estimated at 3 million. The effort will also be the focus of a PBS documentary with an audience estimated at between 10 and 14 million viewers when it reaches the air.

"I was a federal prisoner myself," said Carter 2 Motorsports main man Roger Carter II, who served nearly three years for a white collar offense. "I met a lot of wonderful people in prison, nonviolent drug offenders. I was able to go home after a couple of years, but these guys are serving 10, 20, 30 years or more," he told Drug War Chronicle. "Don't get me wrong. I believe people who break the law should be punished, but this is about fair and just punishment. What gets you six months in the state courts can get you six years in the federal system, and that's just not right."

While Carter's effort is relatively recent, he is encouraged by the reaction he is getting. "The support has been overwhelming," he said. "People are really susceptible to this and the press is eating it up. The whole idea is to get this before the public because people need to see where their tax dollars are going. Anyone who looks at H.R. 3072 is pleased to see it is a common sense approach to imprisonment instead of just throwing people away for no reason," he said, adding that he has H.R. 3072 messages painted on his NASCAR truck and stock car, as well as on his web sites and e-mails.

Since Congress abolished parole in the "sentencing reform" of 1986, the federal prison system has grown progressively larger, filled increasingly with nonviolent drug offenders doing lengthy sentences with no chance of more than highly limited early release for good behavior. As of this week, the federal Bureau of Prisons put its prisoner count at more than 191,000, with 54% serving time for drug offenses.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/georgemartorano.jpg
George Martorano (courtesy We Believe Group)
That number includes George Martorano, the man who carries the unlucky distinction of being the longest serving nonviolent offender in federal prison to date, a fate he earned through a first-time marijuana offense. Martorano is now 23 years into a life sentence with no chance of parole. It was Martorano's plight that inspired Florida resident John Flahive to join the fight for sentencing reform.

"I was courting a young lady, and one night when I was at her house, the phone rang with a message. It was a call from a federal inmate," Flahive explained. "It was George, and the young lady was his sister. She told me he was doing life without parole and I asked her how many people he killed," he told the Chronicle. "He didn't kill anybody. He was involved in a deal -- around 2400 pounds of pot. After a while, I went to visit him, and found he was a pretty nice guy -- he writes books and teaches other inmates and has a perfect prison record. We figured we had to help him out somehow, so we created the We Believe Group to try to raise awareness of his plight."

It has been an education, said Flahive. "I started working on this five years ago. Before that, I wasn't involved, I didn't even vote," he explained. "I figured George's case was a screw up, but as I got more involved, I realized there were thousands of Georges rotting away in there." As a result, Flahive has broadened his activism and is now working to get sentencing reform legislation through Congress. He, too, will be heading to the NASCAR tracks along with Carter in an effort to bring the message to the masses of racing fans.

"I'm working with Federal CURE on this," he said. "They've got two motor homes that we will dress up with H.R. 3072 and we'll have lots of literature to hand out. People listen when you tell them if they pay federal taxes they are affected by the cost of the federal prison system. Federal parole could save $4 billion a year," Flahive claimed.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dannydavis.jpg
Rep. Danny Davis
The federal parole has been around for awhile and was originally sponsored by Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI), but since her unexpected death in 2002, Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) has taken up the gauntlet and is now the lead sponsor. Davis was traveling and unavailable for comment this week, but his communications director, Ira Cohen, told the Chronicle the bill could use all the help it can get. "Rep. Davis is proud of all that he has accomplished with the Second Chance Act and the parole bill, and he continues to look for support," said Cohen.

A source close to Davis told the Chronicle that Davis is concentrating this fall on the Second Chance Act as a means of opening the door to a serious discussion of sentencing reform in Congress. "The strategy has always been to press for another bill to pass first, and the Second Chance Act is very close now," the source said. "If it passes, the congressman intends to use that opportunity to have this broader discussion on the parole bill because it will open up the whole issue of broader federal criminal justice reform."

But Flahive, Carter, and 100,000 federal drug war prisoners aren't waiting for Congress to act -- they're pushing it to act. In addition to the Bristol race on the 23rd, Carter and his H.R. 3072 car and truck will be racing NASCAR tracks at New Hampshire, Martinsville, and Homestead and taking the message to the masses. "Like anything else, once this gets some momentum, once politicians see they can benefit from voting for this, it'll be all over. We're here to help the people get the politicians to that point."

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, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 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, Kratom, 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