Category Archives: drugs

Cannibal Capitalism: performance enhancing drugs

Cannibal capitalism is easy to spot in modern sports.   Contests are broadcast and we are encouraged to consume of the bodies of athletes and comment on their suffering.  To succeed and get paid at the highest levels, many athletes use illegal and dangerous drugs.  It seems transparent to call them ‘performance enhancing drugs’.   The performance is enhanced, often at the health and safety of the athlete.

Al Jazeera has released a potent documentary following the trail of a few illicit pharmacists and doctors who provide illegal sports drug cocktails. It is a tell-all of many recent sports heroes who it is suggested used performance enhancing drugs.

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Filed under capitalism, documentary, drugs, forbidden fruit, health, sport

Obama pardons Valerie Bozeman: drug war reflections

Kyle Swenson has an excellent write up on Valerie Bozeman in the Broward Palm Beach New Times.  Bozeman was convicted of drug charges and received federal mandatory minimum penalties.  She was pardoned from her life sentence by President Obama after 23 years in prison.  This is an excellent read complete with a sympathetic protagonist, grimy drug kingpins, incompetent defense attorneys and a guilty judge.

Swenson does a good job explaining how low-level offenders were getting astounding sentences.

But as anxiety over crack grew, the statute was hijacked. The use of “851 enhancements,” as they came to be called, became a huge prosecutorial hammer. The marching orders for federal prosecutors were for no mercy.

In 1989, then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh ordered U.S. attorneys to “charge the most serious, readily provable offense.” Victory in the courtroom was “measured by the length of sentence you could get if you secured that prosecution,” explains Price. So 851 enhancements — which could trigger a life sentence if an individual had two prior felony convictions — became an easy way for the government to notch a heavy win.

“It was a time when we turned our backs on rehabilitation and support, and our criminal justice system and sentencing law became much more punitive,” Price says. “We were locking up people who we didn’t like and were afraid of. But we were also locking up a lot of people who really didn’t deserve the lengthy sentences we were doling out.”

Source: Valerie Bozeman Is Pardoned by Obama as America Wrestles With Fallout From the War on Drugs | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Bozeman got a life sentence and learned about the 851 (mandatory minimum) penalties that sent her to prison only years later.  Note that the ‘old timers’ — the prisoners who are sentenced to life became a legal research unit under the direction of Bozeman.

In between chores, Bozeman shot off urgent letters to court-appointed lawyers, like SOS messages stuffed in bottles and pitched into the ocean. Most were ignored. Eventually, she received a letter from Judge Ungaro patiently explaining that Bozeman had been sentenced to life because of a statute known at “851 enhancement.”

With that phrase in her mind, she began visiting the prison law library, where she finally began to unlock what exactly had happened to her.

Soon, Bozeman called together the old-timers. Bozeman had a one-question pop quiz. “Do you know why you got a life sentence?”

Blank looks bounced back at her. One by one, Bozeman sent the women to their cells for their sentencing paperwork. Together they bushwhacked through the legalese until they found it: 851. “The ladies didn’t understand why they were sitting there with a life sentence,” she says today. “They just didn’t know.”

Source: Valerie Bozeman Is Pardoned by Obama as America Wrestles With Fallout From the War on Drugs | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

The essay is also ripe with some terrifying statistics about the drug war and incarceration.  In particular the use of the federal 851 statute (mandatory minimums) to coerce suspects to admit guilt.

Between 1980 and 2013, the number of drug defendants incarcerated in federal custody had exploded from 4,749 to 100,026 — a 2,006 percent uptick. Fifty percent of all federal inmates were serving time on drug charges.

Not only did mandatory minimums put small-time dealers in prison for long periods but 851 enhancements also had another harsh effect. Because the decision to file rested solely with the prosecution, it could be used as a threat: If you go to trial, we’ll file an enhancement.

A study by Human Rights Watch showed that in 2012, “the average sentence of federal drug offenders convicted after trial was three times higher (16 years) than that received after a guilty plea (5 years and 4 months).” When sentencing enhancements were in play for defendants with prior convictions, defendants “who went to trial were 8.4 times more likely to have the enhancement applied” than those who pleaded guilty.

New York Federal District Judge John Gleeson noted that use of 851s had gotten out of control. He wrote in an October 2013 decision that they brought on “the sentencing equivalent of a two-by-four to the forehead.” As a result, so many people chose to plead guilty rather than take chances at trial that a federal criminal trial was “on the endangered species list,” he said. “The government’s use of [851 enhancements] coerces guilty pleas and produces sentences so excessively severe they take your breath away.”

Proof was in the data: In 1980, only 69 percent of defendants in federal drug cases pleaded guilty and took plea deals; by 2010, 97 percent did.

Source: Valerie Bozeman Is Pardoned by Obama as America Wrestles With Fallout From the War on Drugs | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

This essay is a worthwhile read and a thoughtful reflection on the drug war.  Thanks to Longreads for the suggestion.

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Americans are vampires: Ebola edition

I ran across a Boing Boing post where they point out that two American missionaries who contracted Ebola appear to have saved by an experimental treatment.  CNN describes the situation:

Its a story that could have come from a cinematic medical thriller: Two American missionary workers contract Ebola. Their situation is dire. Three vials containing a highly experimental drug are flown into Liberia in a last-ditch effort to save them. And the drug flown in last week appears to have worked, according to a source familiar with details of the treatment.Dr. Kent Brantlys and Nancy Writebols conditions significantly improved after receiving the medication, sources say. Brantly was able to walk into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after being evacuated to the United States last week, and Writebol is expected to arrive in Atlanta on Tuesday.

via Ebola drug likely saved American patients – CNN.com.

1.   Starting in March 2014, Ebola started to be seen in West Africa.  More than 1600 Africans have shown up sick with more than half of those infected dying.  None of these people got a last-minute salvation.

2.  Everyone in the world has to be terrified of Ebola.  It is one of the most scary diseases I’ve ever heard about.  The notion that a pharmaceutical company in San Diego had a treatment that seems to have worked that was never shared with dying African people is offensive.

3.  I can only imagine what this looks like to people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

4.  The cure had to be pried out of the hands of a for-profit pharmaceutical corporation.  Turns out the months of Africans dying wasn’t sufficient incentive to release the treatment.   So how did these two white American missionaries find out about this miracle treatment?  CNN explains that the missionary charity (Samaritans Purse) made the connection:

As the Americans conditions worsened, Samaritans Purse reached out to a National Institutes of Health scientist who was on the ground in West Africa, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”The scientist was able to informally answer some questions and referred them to appropriate company contacts to pursue their interest in obtaining the experimental product,” NIAID said.The experimental drug, known as ZMapp, was developed by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which is based in San Diego. The patients were told that the treatment had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys.

via Ebola drug likely saved American patients – CNN.com.

5.  You might call these Americans vampires.  Back from the dead saved by the magical blood of the sacrifices of those who came before them:

The medicine is a three-mouse monoclonal antibody, meaning that mice were exposed to fragments of the Ebola virus and then the antibodies generated within the mices blood were harvested to create the medicine. It works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells.

via Ebola drug likely saved American patients – CNN.com.

The rush of resources and last-minute miracle part of this narrative is worth talking more about.  But also the sacrifices of the mice, monkeys and the dead Africans have to be considered when thinking about these two saved missionaries.

I think this makes visible the hierarchy of human bodies — the idea that some people count more than others.

Worth noting that the Wall Street Journal reports that one of the Americans was also given a blood transfusion from an African Ebola survivor.

Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol began receiving supportive care as soon as they were diagnosed, according to their respective charities. Dr. Brantly also got a blood transfusion from a 14-year-old boy who survived Ebola under Dr. Brantlys care, in the hope that antibodies would help him, too, fight off the virus. Both Dr. Brantly and Ms. Writebol received an experimental serum, the charities said, though they didnt specify what the treatment was.

via U.S. Ebola Virus Patient Being Treated in Atlanta Faces Crucial Days – WSJ.

6.  Some people might ask: ‘don’t you think it’s worth it? Having a potential cure for Ebola is more important than any of these complaints about how the drug got made or released?

I would respond that the harm is done.  Any attempt to justify this kind of hierarchical violence is probably worth noting in itself as evidence of a pernicious desire in the questioner to defend the pharmaceutical company.

Of course I wish for a cure for Ebola and am glad that a treatment seems to be in the works.  I hope for an immediate and full distribution of this new treatment to everyone who has Ebola.

I haven’t seen any leader or press report advocating that the drug should be shared with other dying people.

It is always worth thinking about how we do things.   Few would deny that injustices are done in the name of best intentions.   And we should examine how CNN and the Wall Street Journal write about a phenomenon.

The Wall Street Journal  reports that the death rate of those who get Ebola is one reason why researching a cure isn’t a priority:

There are several vaccines and drug treatments in development and testing for Ebola, but none have been approved by regulators. Commercializing them is a challenge given that Ebola is a rare disease, said Thomas Geisbert, who works on potential Ebola vaccine platforms as a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.”Ebola is very rare—there is not a financial incentive for large pharmaceutical companies to make vaccines for Ebola,” he said. “Its really going to require government agencies or a foundation.”

via U.S. Ebola Virus Patient Being Treated in Atlanta Faces Crucial Days – WSJ.

7.  I’m glad that someone helped to save these two people’s lives.  Here is hoping that same impulse counts for everyone else in the world.

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Filed under Animals, capitalism, colonialism, communication, disaster, drugs, health, media, race, representation, rhetoric, technology

Animals captive in zoos drugged

Grotesque and cruel.  To enslave an animal in a zoo for viewers to consume for pleasure.   To ensure that the captive animals represent the happy animal fiction they are drugged.

After their experiences at the zoo in Boston, Murphy and Mufson were curious about the use of psychopharmaceuticals in other captive gorillas, so they surveyed all U.S. and Canadian zoos with gorillas in their collections. Nearly half of the 31 institutions that responded had given psychopharmaceutical drugs to their gorillas. The most frequently prescribed were Haldol haloperidol and Valium diazepam, though Klonopin, Zoloft, Paxil, Xanax, Buspar, Prozac, Ativan, Versed, and Mellaril had all been tried.

via Even the Gorillas and Bears in Our Zoos Are Hooked on Prozac | Opinion | WIRED.

Thanks to Dan Weiss’s daily coffee from the Rumpus for the link.

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No Malice & Pusha T on CNN

Several casual observations:

– Bill Weir, CNN reporter seems manipulative, disrespectful and really entitled.

– Both spend some time trying to not incriminate themselves.  It is Pusha who makes the most blatantly inconsistent statement when he refuses acknowledge drug profits in part 2.  “No, I’m a really good rapper.”

Probably worth juxtaposing with “King Push” first track from his most recent album:

– I have a little more clarity about the difficulties of No Malice.  I think he makes some of the most explicit justifications for why he refuses to perform violent drug rap music any more.  I appreciate that he gives up obvious financial gain to be real to his family and his beliefs.

– Pusha T’s segments are basically Pusha T advertisements.   The exchange where he tells Weir how much publicity he’ll get from being on CNN is awesome.  Pusha is phenomenally media savvy and makes it clear that he wouldn’t be on CNN if it didn’t benefit him.

– No Malice’s argument about white consumption of violent black-performed drug rap is pretty compelling.

– When asked by Weir why he doesn’t take the money to perform Clipse songs, No Malice gives the best exchange of the series:

“Brother, that money, that money at one time, was out for my life.  They can’t invent a dollar amount to get me out there to tell . . . look at what’s at stake? I can’t tell anybody about selling drugs any more, I can’t even make it look cool anymore.  There are people that are dying, look at what is going on in Chicago.   And I like I said earlier, your race can enjoy it!  And laugh and joke and enjoy it . . . and then get back to business.  I have a message and I have to share it.  Then I have to let you do what you want with it.  You know, you do what you want with it.  But, I’ve got enough blood on my hands.  Enough.”

– No Malice, CNN.

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Filed under capitalism, communication, cultural appropriation, drugs, hip hop, juxtaposition, media, music, race, representation, vulnerability

Harm reduction, EDM & ‘Molly’

Longreads suggested the tell-all essay on so-called molly and Electronic Dance Music festivals written by Shane Morris.  It is a good read with snappy prose and a strong argument that the EDM festivals are locations where lots of people seek drugs from one-time drug dealers who may sell them almost anything.

But I’m more taken with his follow up essay where he not only answers many of the criticisms and also suggests a series of solutions.

Much of what he suggests is harm reduction – trying to make risky behavior (of almost any stripe) less likely to result in damage.  But it is also a sincere plea for bystander accountability and a change in the culture of drug-users and those promoters who make money on festivals.

I’m only saying that it’s time the EDM community starts acting like the family it espouses itself to be. No more secrets. No more “turning around and pretending you didn’t see that happen.” No more fearing what might happen if you ask for help. No more pretending people aren’t getting hooked on Molly. If everyone in the EDM community collectively decides to help themselves, rather than bending to legislation, we can fix this. If we advocate a culture of safety, health, and honesty, we can correct the course of this ship before it maroons itself on the rocks.

Part I. We need a return of safe, “cool down” areas to EDM events. If we all acknowledge that people are going to do drugs, and it’s just something that happens, then we should also be able to acknowledge that every person deserves to be safe, healthy, and well. If you’re not feeling OK, there needs to be a place you can go and sit down, chill out, drink water, maybe even get a bag of ice and put it on your head.

via Finding Molly: Reconstructing Dreamland | Bro Jackson.

Morris also suggests people “call out the idiots promoting overconsumption,” and for transparency (including drug testing kits for prospective users).   He also commits to making his own music events more safe and offers up “safe word” as the catchphrase for a campaign of communication:

Here is his explanation:

In BDSM circles, using a safeword means things have gotten too much for you to handle, and you need to stop, without judgement. In that regard, I feel its purpose is well served here as well. If you’re at an event, and things have spun out of control for you, a friend, or perhaps a stranger you’re just looking out for–you should be able to remove yourself from the situation and know your safety is the primary concern, without fear of repercussions or judgement.

via Finding Molly: Reconstructing Dreamland | Bro Jackson.

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Filed under communication, dance, do-it-yourself, drugs, health, music, punishment, vulnerability

Honky Tonk Heroes: Willie Nelson is a lot harder than I thought

John Spong has a narrative essay in Texas Monthly describing the rebellious country music scene around Austin Texas in the early seventies.  A few of my favorite quotes:

JERRY JEFF WALKER I had a whole lot of money available, and I knew what people like the Band were doing. You buy the equipment, make your record, and when you’re done, you own the shit! I thought that might be a good thing to do.

BOB LIVINGSTON Someone had gutted the old Rapp Cleaners on Sixth Street, put burlap on the walls, and made it one of Austin’s first recording studios. We’d been with Murphey in a Nashville studio, and now we’re with Jerry Jeff in this funky little place, plugged into a sixteen-track tape recorder in the middle of the room, with no board, no nothing. We’d get there about seven each night, and Jerry Jeff would be standing in the doorway, mixing sangria in this big metal tub.

JERRY JEFF WALKER The sound engineers wanted to bring in this souped-up equipment. I said no. This needed to be like one of those nature shows: [He whispers in an affected English accent]“This is the first time we’ve ever seen the birthing of a Tibetan tiger baby.” I figured if somebody could sneak up on a tiger, we could be recorded where we’re comfortable.

via That 70’s Show | Texas Monthly.

Of course the scene at Willie Nelson’s fourth of July picnics and a nice vignette about Billy Joe Shaver and peyote:

BILLY JOE SHAVER I got into that dang peyote and got to thinking I was Jesus. I was just walking around, healing people. I baptized a bunch of them.

via That 70’s Show | Texas Monthly.

I like this next quote by James White about letting these new country rebels play at his club.  Maybe it’s because he judges everyone so much on their shoes.  And of course — musical integration comes because five hundred hippies will buy a lot of beer.

JAMES WHITE opened the Broken Spoke in 1964. They drew over five hundred people. And I guess about 70 to 80 percent were hippies. Some of them were barefoot or wearing moccasins or tennis shoes, like a PF Flyer. None of them could two-step. They all did a dance I called the Hippie Hop, jumping around like old hoedown dancing. But there were five hundred of them, and I figured anybody who can draw five hundred people is okay.

via That 70’s Show | Texas Monthly

I know that Willie Nelson is fundamentally bad-ass, but this article gives me a whole new perception.  Here he is calming down redneck violence during the transition:

STEVE EARLE I saw Willie play this joint in Pasadena called the Half Dollar. Pasadena was where the Ku Klux Klan clubhouse was in the Houston area. It was as redneck as Texas got, full of refinery workers who went dancing every weekend. But that night, a bunch of us hippies wanted to sit on the floor and watch Willie play. So as the regulars go around the dance floor, they’re kicking us in the back. Willie stopped in the middle of a song and said, “You know what, there’s room enough for some to dance and some to sit.” That chilled it out.

via That 70’s Show | Texas Monthly.

Austin gave Tom T. Hall a lesson in gender politics.  Visible here is the understanding that the power/disempowerment of gender dynamics is the pleasurable thing for male-dominant sex:

TOM T. HALL My show at the Armadillo was the first time I was ever propositioned by a woman. I came out of Kentucky and had this naive notion that men were supposed to chase women. That was the sport of it. So this beautiful, blond-haired girl came out of the audience looking like one of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. She said, “Hey, you want to go screw?” I said, “Oh, I don’t think so.” The charm had gone out of the thing.

via That 70’s Show | Texas Monthly.

I’ve got to search for the first season of Austin City Limits.

BILL ARHOS That first year of Austin City Limits was crazy. Doug Sahm was on, and the air in the studio turned purple from marijuana smoke. I had to throw a guy out for spraying silver paint up his nose. Seriously. And God, Jerry Jeff was supposed to tape one night, but he’d gone to Miami to see the Cowboys play in the Super Bowl. If they’d won, he would’ve never shown up. But they lost, and he came, walking onstage while the Gonzos were singing “London Homesick Blues,” just grinning like an idiot. I said, “What the hell?” And someone said, “There’s a guy in the audience wearing a gorilla suit.” There was.

via That 70’s Show | Texas Monthly.

Perhaps the best musical defense against a drug charge by Waylon Jennings:

RICHIE ALBRIGHT The next day Waylon was booked for possession, and that was big news in Nashville. And it was funny because Willie played in Nashville that night and had Waylon come out onstage. The place went nuts. The day after that, we were at the lawyer’s office, and Waylon said, “You got a guitar around here?” They did. He said, “You’ve got to hear this new song.” He started playing “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand.” He got to the part where he says, “They got me for possession of something that was gone, long gone,” and the lawyers faces all drained. They said, “You can’t say that.” Waylon goes, “Hell, it is gone.”

via That 70’s Show | Texas Monthly.

Interesting how common gun play was at this point:

RAY BENSON We were filming a show at the Alliance Wagon Yard, and I’m in the video truck with a guy from CBS Records named Herschel. I put my hand on the board and suddenly go, “Ow! Was I just shocked?” and then Herschel goes, “Ow! My leg!” and I turn and see his jeans going dark with blood. One of Willie’s guys had shot at Joe Gracey’s brother with a .22, and the bullet went through the side of the van, grazed my left hand, and then went into Herschel’s leg. But when CBS found out who shot him, they decided not to press charges. They didn’t want to alienate Willie.

LEON RUSSELL That was my video truck. But I figured that if you send your million-dollar truck down to Austin, you’ve got to expect to get a bullet hole or two in it.

via That 70’s Show | Texas Monthly.

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