Saturday, January 23, 2010

Under Siege

The UO Knight is under siege. After sallying forth to combat the evil libertarians over the issue of drug legalization, the UO Knight returned home to find his castle beseiged by a drug liberalization Kool-Aid drinker from the UK operating under the alias "Jimbob."

Jimbob has challenged me to read a couple of articles from the mainstream media, and "do some research before typing [my] next response."

Jimbob argues that "the majority of these effects [i.e., the social cost of drugs] are down to prohibition – dealers / gangs / funding terrorism / drug addict crime etc. etc." For Jimbob, drug prohibition is the real problem, not the criminals who disobey the law and supply/ use illegal substances.

This is a patently absurd claim. In 2003, the US Drug Enforcement Administration put out a paper that summarizes "ten top facts on legalization. In this paper, the DEA states, "Six times as many homicides are committed by people under the influence of drugs, as by those who are looking for money to buy drugs. Most drug crimes aren’t committed by people trying to pay for drugs; they’re committed by people on drugs."

This demonstrates that on the criterion of actual crime alone, the use of certain mind-altering substances is the problem. On this basis, a convincing case is made that the public availability of these substances ought to be severely restricted.

In addition to actual crimes committed, I also argue that there are other weighty reasons for keeping drug use criminalized. I maintain that individuals who use drugs are compromised mentally and morally by using these substances.

Because of such undisputable corrupting effects on the citizenry, I argue for establishing personal character reference qualifications as well as IQ and mental health tests to ensure that only competent individuals be allowed into the voting booth.

Jimbob rejects the idea that drugs negatively influence character, intelligence and mental competency. He argues that people who use drugs only "recreationally" are capable of adequately functioning in society.

Well, they may be able to "function," but as I see it the only way our civilization is going to move back in the direction it needs to is for us to rediscover the law and forgiveness of God, abandon our vices, and be concerned for the survival of our families and communities.

According to the paper cited above, "The short-term effects [of marijuana] are... harmful. They include: memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem solving, loss of motor skills, decrease in muscle strength, increased heart rate, and anxiety. Marijuana impacts young people’s mental development, their ability to concentrate in school, and their motivation and initiative to reach goals."

The rejection of drug use, then, even use of more benign drugs such as marijuana, is a necessary condition to begin to aquire the virtues necessary for maintaining civilization.

A few final thoughts on this subject. I have limited time to investigate absurd claims put forth in the name of “science,” whatever that is. Global warming is a fraud perpetrated by so-called science. Scientists are people who have personal dispositions and political points-of-view just like everybody else. Data can be suppressed and/ or cherry-picked.

Journalists aren’t scientists or logicians. Scientific studies usually have a very precise scope and it’s all too easy for non-experts (such as Jimbob) to draw unwarranted conclusions from findings they don’t understand.

Before research should be accepted as science by policy makers it needs to be tested, re-tested, and peer-reviewed. Contrary opinions and findings need to be weighed. Factors such as common sense, prudence, and sage advice (things not easily quantifiable) also have their legitimate part to play in policy-makers' decisions.

The Boston Globe article Jimbob cited, is a joke.

The "findings" of the research cited by the article rank pot higher than solvents and LSD. Also, Tobacco is rated more harmful than LSD, pot, and ecstasy. Finally, alcohol is listed as more harmful than meth! "Findings" such as these, so contrary to common sense perceptions, are unworthy of serious consideration.

Somebody named "truthczar" had this to say about the article:

"The guy makes some SUBJECTIVE assessments, creates a chart, then some reporter finds the article and assumes the chart is hard fact, and prints it. Next some fool politician will try to make public policy based on a reporter's interpretation of some guys chart based on a made up weighted scale of subjective assessments."

Another commenter made the following analysis (which I have modified slightly for the purpose of this post):

The problem with the findings of this research is with the particular combination of variables used to generate this gradation of harmful substances. The variables of physical impact, addictiveness, and societal cost are combined to produce misleading figures. If you are trying to determine the allocation of government resources, why do you care about anything other then the societal impact? And how is addictiveness and physical damage not already factored into societal cost? If you are trying to assess the danger that a drug poses to an individual, shouldn’t you only care about its physical impact and addictiveness?

This ranking doesn’t really tell us anything about the relative harmfulness of these substances. The purpose in combining all three variables is to mislead the public into swallowing the notion that drugs are less harmful than tobacco or alcohol.

This perspective does not take adequate account of the social benefits of tobacco and alcohol, the vast majority of whose users are responsible, law-abiding citizens. In the case of tobacco and alcohol, conventional thinking judges that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Not so with drug use. The evidence is clear that the drug culture spawns stupidity, criminality, and insanity in epidemic proportions.

That's all I have to say on this subject at present.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Andrew, you comment:

“For Jimbob, drug prohibition is the real problem, not the criminals who disobey the law and supply/ use illegal substances”.

That’s exactly right. A huge proportion of these so called ‘criminals’ are only so because governments (driven and enforced by USA treaties to the detriment of the world) chose to make these particular drugs illegal. The only crime is the fact that they are illegal and that is ludicrous. You cannot ban things to ‘save people from themselves’. As previously said, we all participate in activities that can be dangerous to our health – poor diet, lack of exercise, driving, smoking, drinking, Extreme Sports etc. etc.

With regard to the comment about the Boston Globe article, as I previously mentioned, they are only printing an article that had wide spread coverage in the UK press.

"The guy makes some SUBJECTIVE assessments, creates a chart, then some reporter finds the article and assumes the chart is hard fact, and prints it. Next some fool politician will try to make public policy based on a reporter's interpretation of some guys chart based on a made up weighted scale of subjective assessments."

”The Guy” as you put it is the ‘The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)’ (this is shown below the chart) which is an independent expert body set up by the UK government to advise them on drug related issues in the UK It was established under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The Advisory Council makes recommendations to UK government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs, including classification and scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its regulations. It considers any substance which is being or appears to be misused and of which is having or appears to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to cause a social problem.

So lets be very clear that this graph was part of a report which was prepared after years of research by the UK government’s top qualified, competent, experts in this field.

Last year saw the dismissal of the Professor Nut, who was the senior member of the ACMD. This was due to Professor Nut being totally dismayed that the UK government had dismissed his panel’s research and, in some instances, changed the classification of certain drugs contrary to the AMCD’s findings. Many people in the UK sympathised with Professor Nutt. After all, what is the point on having independent scientific advisors if you then totally ignore their research when deciding on policies.

Andrew, the impression that I am getting from you is that you have very extreme religious views. That is fine, but understand that other people do not want to live under your interpretation of the bible. I have no issue with your views other than they seem to encourage an intolerance of other peoples views. I am sure that you probably still believe that homosexuality should also be illegal.

The war on drugs has been a spectacular failure. Drug use has soared, drug crime has soured, and we have wasted billions and billions of £’s / $’s with almost nothing to show for it. One thing is for certain, the tide is changing and both the States and the UK are slowly giving up on the war on drugs. Read the below article from 17th January 2010 in the Telegraph. What’s even more interesting with articles like these are the readers comments – clearly legalisation is becoming the thinking mans choice.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-waves-white-flag-in-disastrous-war-on-drugs-1870218.html

Jimbob

Andrew Matthews said...

Jimbob writes,

“A huge proportion of these so called ‘criminals’ are only so because governments (driven and enforced by USA treaties to the detriment of the world) chose to make these particular drugs illegal. The only crime is the fact that they are illegal and that is ludicrous.”

I have already cited the statistic that six times more drug related homicides are committed by people under the influence of these substances than people trying to obtain them. You did not give any indication whether you accept this finding or not. If you accept it, I’d like to know what you think it implies for public policy.

I’ve also already indicated that people who commit crimes while under these substances are more culpable than people who are arrested for mere possession or merely being under their influence.

“You cannot ban things to ‘save people from themselves’. As previously said, we all participate in activities that can be dangerous to our health – poor diet, lack of exercise, driving, smoking, drinking, Extreme Sports etc. etc.”

Sure you can. Government does it all the time. Policy makers make decisions about what they’re going to allow in society and how to manage the effects of those decisions.

“‘The Guy’ as you put it is the ‘The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)’ (this is shown below the chart) which is an independent expert body set up by the UK government to advise them on drug related issues in the UK… Last year saw the dismissal of the Professor Nut, who was the senior member of the ACMD. This was due to Professor Nut being totally dismayed that the UK government had dismissed his panel’s research and, in some instances, changed the classification of certain drugs contrary to the AMCD’s findings.”

Well, obviously the British government wasn’t too impressed with the findings, or rather, how the findings were tabulated. Let me repeat: The "findings" of the research cited by the article rank pot higher than solvents and LSD. Also, Tobacco is rated more harmful than LSD, pot, and ecstasy. Finally, alcohol is listed as more harmful than meth!

Jimbob, do you agree that there are serious problems with the way the data was organized?

“Andrew, the impression that I am getting from you is that you have very extreme religious views. That is fine, but understand that other people do not want to live under your interpretation of the bible. I have no issue with your views other than they seem to encourage an intolerance of other peoples views. I am sure that you probably still believe that homosexuality should also be illegal.”

Well, Jimbob, "exteme" is a relative term. Your views are on the opposite end of the spectrum from mine. What does that make you?

Actually, I’m very tolerant of other people’s views. You would be free to hold your opinions in my ideal society. I'd be happy to have a friendly discussion with you about this subject over a pint of ale.

I only advocate that at the end of the day policy makers should make decisions based on their understanding of what is best for society, not on whatever ideology is fashionable among certain segments of the population at a particular moment. Part of what is best is determined by what the religious basis of the society in question is. And, as a matter of fact, I think homosexual behavior should be kept where it belongs—in the closet.

“The war on drugs has been a spectacular failure… Read the below article, etc.”

Quoting from the article, “Part of the reason for the slow US retreat from the ‘war’ is that the strategy of fighting it in foreign lands and not at home has proved valueless.”

This article confirms my original position. I advocate fighting the war at home, eliminating the demand side. Of course, the war can’t be fought on one front only! The possession and use of certain substances should be punished so severely that only very few will hazard disobeying the law. In order to have a civilized society the law must be respected and obeyed.

Anonymous said...

Andrew states:

"I have already cited the statistic that six times more drug related homicides are committed by people under the influence of these substances than people trying to obtain them. You did not give any indication whether you accept this finding or not. If you accept it, I’d like to know what you think it implies for public policy".

I have been on the DEA website and viewed a document that makes this blanket statement with supporting evidence. I'm sorry but I prefer hard fact and statistics.

On the UK governments Home Office website it states that 'around three-quarters of crack and heroin users claim they commit crime to feed their habit. It is our priority to break this damaging chain'.

Your view that government can/should ban things to save us from ourselves is nonsensical! We live in a world of risk - deal with it. You may as well ban driving arguing 'think of the number of children’s lives we will save from road traffic accidents'.

Government law does not automatically mean that it is right, should not be challenged or modified. Otherwise we would all be living in the dark ages (and you certainly would not have a black president!).

"Jimbob, do you agree that there are serious problems with the way the data was organized"?

No I don't. The UK government, like the USA, has a major issue in accepting facts and evidence from experts surrounding drug use. Hence the reason the UK's and USA's drug statistics are the worst in the world. And 'Meth' is not Crystal Meth - it is Methadone, a Heroin substitute. We do not have a Crystal Meth problem in the UK - yet. But as prohibition continues and new 'research chemicals' continue to enter the market to fill the gap left by banned substances I fear for how long it will be.

A total of 7 expert scientists have now walked out of the UK's AMCD in the past year in protest to the government’s refusal to base drugs policy on fact. This leaves 2 original members. Are you telling me this not cause for concern – or are all 7 people misguided?!

I find it incredibly said that someone of your degree of faith has such nazi-esque views towards drug users. Drug policy should be based on harm prevention and not criminalisation.

Our Drug laws are still based upon upholding moral standards. The sooner religious views are extracted from politics the better.

"Actually, I’m very tolerant of other people’s views. You would be free to hold your opinions in my ideal society. I'd be happy to have a friendly discussion with you about this subject over a pint of ale".

Alcohol - your drug of choice!

"Well, Jimbob, "extreme" is a relative term. Your views are on the opposite end of the spectrum from mine. What does that make you?"

I simply base my views on fact Andrew and accept change and the need to do something different. The war on drugs has failed for over 40 years. We have no noticeable benefits to show, more drug availability than ever before and it has cost our countries Billions. All money that could have been spent on healthcare / education / drug education etc etc.

The USA has zero tolerance on drugs yet has the worst drug statistics in the world. More users, more dealers, more people in jail etc. Countries like Portugal, Holland, Czech Republic have more liberal views and have less users, people incarcerated etc. The evidence is clear to see – you cannot get away from that.

As the saying goes 'If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got'.

More of the same for Mr Matthews please...

Andrew Matthews said...

Jimbob writes,

“I have been on the DEA website and viewed a document that makes this blanket statement with supporting evidence. I'm sorry but I prefer hard fact and statistics.”

You mean facts and statistics that support your pre-conceived opinions. Jimbob, who made you the arbitrator of what counts as admissible evidence?

According to the 1999 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) study, more than half of arrestees for violent crimes test positive for drugs at the time of their arrest.

Can you tell me what’s wrong with the findings of this study, Jimbob?

A 1997 FBI study of violence against law enforcement officers found that 24 percent of the assailants were under the influence of drugs at the time they attacked the officers and that 72 percent of the assailants had a history of drug law violations.

What’s wrong with the findings of this study, Jimbob?

According to the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, teenage drug users are five times far more likely to attack someone than those who don’t use drugs. About 20 percent of the 12-17 year olds reporting use of an illegal drug in the past year attacked someone with the intent to seriously hurt them, compared to 4.3 percent of the non-drug users.

What’s wrong with the findings of this study, Jimbob?

“On the UK governments Home Office website it states that 'around three-quarters of crack and heroin users claim they commit crime to feed their habit. It is our priority to break this damaging chain'.”

How does this statistic, which I’ll fully accept, contradict the basic observation that drug use contributes to criminality, by lowering people’s inhibitions, Jimbob? Guess what? It doesn't.

“Your view that government can/should ban things to save us from ourselves is nonsensical! We live in a world of risk - deal with it. You may as well ban driving arguing 'think of the number of children’s lives we will save from road traffic accidents'.”

It depends on how dangerous “things” are, Jimbob. Drugs are far more addictive than alcohol. According to Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, director of Phoenix House, only 10 percent of drinkers become alcoholics, while up to 75 percent of regular illicit drug users become addicted. Proportionally, a lot more people drive and die of natural causes than those who drive and end up dying in an automobile accident.

Why won’t you accept Dr. Rosenthal’s findings, Jimbob??

“Government law does not automatically mean that it is right, should not be challenged or modified. Otherwise we would all be living in the dark ages (and you certainly would not have a black president!).”

I neither said nor implied such a thing. However, I do generally trust my government and will be persuaded that it is misleading me only in the face of overwhelming evidence. You have failed to provide such evidence.

“The UK government, like the USA, has a major issue in accepting facts and evidence from experts surrounding drug use. Hence the reason the UK's and USA's drug statistics are the worst in the world.”

Let me repeat once, again: The "findings" of the research cited by your “experts” rank pot higher than solvents and LSD. Also, Tobacco is rated more harmful than LSD, pot, and ecstasy. Finally, alcohol is listed as more harmful than meth! What’s wrong with this picture?!

“And 'Meth' is not Crystal Meth - it is Methadone, a Heroin substitute.”

And?

(cont'd)

Andrew Matthews said...

“A total of 7 expert scientists have now walked out of the UK's AMCD in the past year in protest to the government’s refusal to base drugs policy on fact. This leaves 2 original members. Are you telling me this not cause for concern – or are all 7 people misguided?!”

It’s a cause for concern. But, more information is needed. Can you provide me with links to the scientists’ stated reasons for leaving?

“I find it incredibly said that someone of your degree of faith has such nazi-esque views towards drug users. Drug policy should be based on harm prevention and not criminalisation.”

You’ve hardly proven that drug legalization is the solution.

“Our Drug laws are still based upon upholding moral standards.
The sooner religious views are extracted from politics the better. I simply base my views on fact Andrew…”

Ever taken a philosophy class, Jimbob? It is a logical fallacy to move from “is” to “ought.”

“and accept change and the need to do something different.”

We’ll see what change without a moral rudder leads to soon enough…

“The war on drugs has failed for over 40 years. We have no noticeable benefits to show, more drug availability than ever before and it has cost our countries Billions. All money that could have been spent on healthcare / education / drug education etc etc.”

I have already given my reasons for why the Drug War isn’t going well. There are plenty more. How much money do you want to spend on all these welfare programs, Jimbob? What percentage of the national budget?

“The USA has zero tolerance on drugs yet has the worst drug statistics in the world. More users, more dealers, more people in jail etc. Countries like Portugal, Holland, Czech Republic have more liberal views and have less users, people incarcerated etc. The evidence is clear to see – you cannot get away from that.”

Well, the U.S. has a much larger population also. What is the difference in proportionality?

“As the saying goes 'If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got'.”

Thanks for sharing your “wisdom” with the readers of UO, Jimbob. Come back soon, eh?

Anonymous said...

“According to the 1999 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) study, more than half of arrestees for violent crimes test positive for drugs at the time of their arrest. Can you tell me what’s wrong with the findings of this study, Jimbob?

I certainly can. It includes alcohol within the statistics which in the UK is the main cause for violent crime.

According to Wikipdeia (provides link to source): ‘Of the adult US population, at least 75% are drinkers; and about 6% of the total group are alcoholics. In groups which are almost 100% drinkers, the alcoholism rate is about 8%. Many reports state that about 73% of felonies are alcohol-related. One survey shows that in about 67% of child-beating cases, 41% of forcible rape cases, 80% of wife-battering, 72% of stabbings, and 83% of homicides, either the attacker or the victim or both had been drinking.’

In any case this is irrelevant. We are not arguing whether drugs (or alcohol) are good or bad, or whether they have negative consequences. The simple fact is that if certain drugs were legalised, tightly controlled, sold in limited quantities etc we would have FAR more control than the present situation. It could be argued the ADAM statistics simply back up my comments that the war on drugs is a disaster and clearly shows how freely available any illegal drug is in any quantity!

As I have said numerous times, the USA has more people in prison for drug related crimes than any other country. Yet you have the worst drug statistics in the world! No matter how much you try to colour things Andrew – this fact is self explanatory! As is Portugal having the one of the lowest drug usage rates in Europe yet it has decriminalised drug use.

”A 1997 FBI study of violence against law enforcement officers found that 24 percent of the assailants were under the influence of drugs at the time they attacked the officers and that 72 percent of the assailants had a history of drug law violations. What’s wrong with the findings of this study, Jimbob?”

Firstly, do drugs include alcohol again? (I don’t have a link again) Secondly, legalise and tightly control drugs so that we limit availability, drug type, strength, age etc.

72% were probably committing the crime to fund their habit?

Anonymous said...

Continued from above...

”According to the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse etc. What’s wrong with the findings of this study, Jimbob?”

It could be interpreted various ways couldn’t it? We could say that people from deprived backgrounds with reduced career opportunities are far more likely to turn to crime and illegal drugs. We could also say that people from deprived backgrounds are more likely to have far less disposable income and therefore more likely to have poor diets. Would you therefore correlate that people with poor diets are more likely to take drugs and commit crime?!!

“On the UK governments Home Office website it states that 'around three-quarters of crack and heroin users claim they commit crime to feed their habit. It is our priority to break this damaging chain’. How does this statistic, which I’ll fully accept, contradict the basic observation that drug use contributes to criminality, by lowering people’s inhibitions. Jimbob? Guess what? It doesn't”.

It is not lowering their inhibitions Andrew, they are stealing to fund their addiction. Do you have any comprehension of addiction? They are not stealing because after taking drugs they now think it is okay to commit crime! They are stealing to feed an all consuming addiction.

Legalise drugs, and provide them free of charge to addicts that agree to detox programmes. I would far rather my taxes are spent on this than having my house broken in to as addicts desperately try to find cash to fund their habbit. It would also free up police resource to come down hard on those gangs that still tried to sell drugs illegally by freeing up the huge amount of time spent arresting users.

”It depends on how dangerous “things” are, Jimbob. Drugs are far more addictive than alcohol. According to Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, director of Phoenix House, only 10 percent of drinkers become alcoholics, while up to 75 percent of regular illicit drug users become addicted. Proportionally, a lot more people drive and die of natural causes than those who drive and end up dying in an automobile accident. Why won’t you accept Dr. Rosenthal’s findings, Jimbob??”

I really haven’t got time to trawl though anymore of these websites Andrew – There’s nothing new here. I have already shown you the graph of harm produced by the UK Governments Drug Advisory council that clearly shows this is not the case. You need to accept that alcohol IS a drug and that you cannot single it out and group all other drugs together! There is clear evidence that drugs like marijuana and ecstasy are not physically addictive. What % of ecstacy or marijuana become addicts Andrew? By grouping illegal drugs together it generalises and is totally worthless.

Continued....

Anonymous said...

”I do generally trust my government and will be persuaded that it is misleading me only in the face of overwhelming evidence. You have failed to provide such evidence”.

No evidence???!!! What exactly has the war of drugs and prohibition given the US that is positive? The worst drug stats in the world? More people in prison due to drugs than any other country? Billions and Billions of dollars wasted? Drug availability in almost every town and city? A massive source of income to Criminal Gangs and Terrorist organizations? Gang ‘turf’ wars? Government officials that get tempted by the big money in drugs and become corrupt? The devastating situation in Columbia created by the US cocaine market?

”Let me repeat once, again: The "findings" of the research cited by your “experts” rank pot higher than solvents and LSD. Also, Tobacco is rated more harmful than LSD, pot, and ecstasy. Finally, alcohol is listed as more harmful than meth! What’s wrong with this picture?!”

Perhaps you should head up the Drugs Advisory Council Andrew – you obviously know more than the Professors that have devoted their entire life’s to science!! I thought you said above that you generally trust your government? Or does that not extend to the UK?

And by the way, how many people do you know that become addicted to LSD and take it there entire life? Or solvents? I don’t know any. Alcoholics however, I know plenty.

“A total of 7 expert scientists have now walked out of the UK's AMCD in the past year in protest to the government’s refusal to base drugs policy on fact. This leaves 2 original members. Are you telling me this not cause for concern – or are all 7 people misguided?!’ It’s a cause for concern. But, more information is needed. Can you provide me with links to the scientists’ stated reasons for leaving?”

See Wikipedia for a summary – section 5.2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acmd#Resignations

“The USA has zero tolerance on drugs yet has the worst drug statistics in the world. More users, more dealers, more people in jail etc. Countries like Portugal, Holland, Czech Republic have more liberal views and have less users, people incarcerated etc. The evidence is clear to see – you cannot get away from that.’ Well, the U.S. has a much larger population also. What is the difference in proportionality?”

The figures are proportional. The US has the worst drug stat figures proportionally. Portugal and C Rep have some of the best (within Europe) proportionally.

Jimbob