What's Bill Bennett Smoking?

What's Bill Bennett Smoking?
Posted by FoM on December 04, 2001 at 21:10:18 PT
By Michael W. Lynch
Source: Reason Magazine 
The latest release from William J. Bennett Inc.--the book and op-ed factory also known as Empower America--appeared Thursday on the commentary pages of the Wall Street Journal. Its subject was familiar—the War on Drugs, and why we need it now more than ever.Bennett, of course, didn't actually write the piece. "I wrote that," said a proud Kevin Cherry of Empower America when I called and asked who was writing Bennett's thoughts these days. The responsibility for the column, of course, remains with Bennett, under whose name it appeared.
The column (available on this paid site) makes these muddled arguments: 1) Terrorist groups rely on the drug trade as one source of funds; 2) We've yet to rethink our drug policy in light of the new threat from terrorism; 3) Unlike the glorious 20 months in 1989-90 when Bennett was drug czar, the federal government has since neglected the drug war, even as children increased their drug use.Bennett deployed each of these points to support his ultimate point, the purpose of the essay: That his former sidekick, John Walters, ought to be our next drug czar. "The Taliban have lost control of Afghanistan, despite the nay-sayers," the article states. "And Mr. Walters's own record shows that we can reduce the use and harm of illegal drugs, that lives can be changed and saved."Whether Mr. Walters is suited for the role of top drug cop is, I believe, moot—any drug czar is likely to be a bad drug czar. Even so, none of Bennett's arguments holds up.For starters, there is little relationship between American drug use--especially by our youth, who mostly smoke pot--and revenues that supported those terrorists who operated under the Taliban regime. The reason is simple: The heroin used in the U.S. comes primarily from Mexico and Columbia; little comes from Afghanistan."The U.S. war on drugs is not connected to the funding of the terrorism we care about," says University of Maryland economist Peter Reuter, co-author of the recent book, Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Places, Times and Vices (2001). "It's the large drug markets in Pakistan, Iran, Western Europe, and, increasingly, Russia. We're not significant players in that. It's not like the world oil market where it comes out of one barrel. It's highly segmented." Empower America's Cherry said he's never heard this argument.But even if the scag here did come from Afghanistan, the point would still be wrong. Drug markets, unlike terrorist networks, are still markets. This makes them extremely difficult to disrupt and impossible to eradicate, since they are populated by highly motivated buyers and sellers who value making the exchange--and keeping it private. Just because the military can wipe out the Taliban doesn't mean Bennett and his friends can wipe out drug production. They can't even keep drug distribution out of prisons, as anyone the former drug czar has helped put behind bars could certainly tell him.More important, criminal elements are attracted to the drug business precisely because it is an illegal business made extremely profitable (if dangerous) by our War on Drugs. The nastier the government repression, the nastier the people who engage in the trade become. Cherry's response to this point is a non sequitur: "The mafia still makes a living even though prostitution is legal in Las Vegas and gambling is legal in Atlantic City."Of course, terrorism is just a convenient news hook for a very old obsession of Bennett's. What about his charge that "illegal drug use, especially among our children, is a plague that has lacked serious federal attention—from Democrats and Republicans, as well as from the executive and legislative branches"? None of this is true. In 2000, one in four high school seniors admitted to having used an illegal drug in the previous 30 days, according to Monitoring the Future. Fewer than one in 10 used a drug other than marijuana. Is this a plague? I don't know.But I--and Bennett--do know that drug use peaked in 1978, when 38.9 percent of high school seniors copped to using an illegal drug--mostly marijuana--in the previous 30 days. Monthly drug use then went into a long decline, which continued during Bennett's drug czardom, that bottomed out in 1992, at 14.4 percent. Bennett cites cocaine and LSD use among high schoolers, and the fact that they continue to use those drugs after they graduate, as evidence that "the idea of 'youthful experimentation' is all too often a dangerous myth." I'm not sure what "all too often" means, but here are the data. Very few 16- and 17-year-olds use either cocaine or hallucinogens. According to the government's own 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 1.1 percent and 2.3 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds said they used coke or hallucinogens in the past month. Even fewer adults use those drugs, so those trying them do indeed appear to be experimenting. Drug use drops dramatically by age, and the context matters. While nearly one in five college students uses drugs, according to the survey, fewer than one in 20 college graduates do. And it's apparent that people experiment with drugs, enjoy them, and then move on to other things. (Individuals who attended college are far more likely than others to have tried drugs in their lifetime than are people who never attended an institution of higher learning. Yet college graduates are less likely than non-graduates to be regular users.)But what about those awful 1990s, when the government was ignoring the problem, as compared to Bennett's 20-month reign? "The statistical differences are negligible," says University of Maryland's Reuter, when I tell him of Bennett's boast. "The budget [for drug control] kept on growing, and the percentage going to enforcement didn't change at all. Two-thirds went to enforcement and one-third for treatment and prevention. Prison numbers kept going up. I don't know what he means."When I told Cherry that I thought the federal government fought the drug war hard in the 1990s, spending more money each year, hiring more cops, arresting more people, and passing more laws, he disagreed. "Not really," he said with a sigh. "Yeah, seizures were up, but so were the amounts imported. You have to recognize that use went up, so something must have been going on. Steaming hours of the Coast Guard were down dramatically. Purity went up, price went down."So where did all the money go, I asked? "It was not used," replied Cherry, who said that U.S. Customs agents were reassigned away from narcotics. "Sure, sure, sure," Cherry said when I pointed out that Gen. Barry McCaffrey did everything possible to repress medical marijuana and that Congress passed and that President Clinton signed a bill preventing anyone with a drug conviction from getting student loans. "But," argues Cherry, "I'm saying that Clinton's biggest statement on illegal drugs was, 'I didn't inhale.' That was the message people remember from Bill Clinton about illegal drugs."But none of that really matters, nor do any of the actual facts of drug use and terrorism. Partisan politics are back. "They want to do to Walters what they did to Ashcroft," Cherry told me. But he was confusing me with someone who cares.Note: The former drug czar's latest tirade defies reality.Michael W. Lynch is Reason’s national correspondent. Newshawk: msegestaSource: Reason Magazine (US)Author: Michael W. LynchPublished: November 30, 2001Copyright: 2001 The Reason FoundationContact: letters reason.comWebsite: Related Articles:We Need A Drug Czar Now the War on Drugs Teaches Us A War Worth Fighting - William Bennett
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Comment #12 posted by Rambler on December 05, 2001 at 11:30:35 PT
wanna see the latest Bennett thing?
Then brace yourself,and see this
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on December 05, 2001 at 11:22:57 PT
I liked what you said about being enraged. I too refuse to get too fired up about things in life because I never want to need legal prescription drugs or alcohol again and it was when life seemed out of my control that I snapped. I have been drug and alcohol free since 94 but I know not to trip my trigger if that makes sense. Thanks!
PS: Cannabis is an herb.
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Comment #10 posted by el_toonces on December 05, 2001 at 11:13:07 PT:
thanks kapt.....
i chekced out your URL re: cherry....he looks like the kind of dork we would have had a lot of fun with in H.S. and at Uni;)Thanks.El
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Comment #9 posted by el_toonces on December 05, 2001 at 11:05:42 PT:
Of course i am being facetious when I allude to your "relaxed" posts, hence the fun, corporate expression of ironic wit, to wit: ";)".What i am really doing is repenting for all my earlier posts in which i might have (or as W says, "...or might not have...") referred to as "immoderate" or such when what you express, as I do here, is justifiable rage.....of course, having bought many years big liquor’s ads and destroying my pancreas in the process, i learned in 12 step meetings that rage -- especially when it is justifiable -- is the most dangerous feeling for a recovering addict/alkie, which is why i cringe every time i see a headline that says anything to the effect of "Y atrocity committed in country Z, Bush said to be enraged".....W's disorder remains unvetted/untreated, as we have been warned, so when I consider how angry I get when experiencing justifiable rage, lil' ole shrub must get so f**king mad about what he sees as outrages that we are in global danger if doesn't happen to have peace and serenity on that particular day. I must admit, though, to some trepidation at my near admission i am turning into an el-el-el-el (elx4 = 4d?);)el
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Comment #8 posted by Jose Melendez on December 05, 2001 at 06:56:58 PT:
what is he on?
Re: the "what's he smoking" comment...
I recenty debated a cigarette smoker who is studying for her PhD. She kept insisting that I "had to admit" that those who smoke tobacco and cannabis increase the chance of lung cancer over those who smoke just tobacco. She kept turning a deaf ear to the fact that it is the tobacco that is responsible. I also pointed out that: the filter is a fraud designed to sell more cigarettes that cigarette manufactureres manipulated the levels of nicotine to increase desire for the drug AND that the best selling brand in the world, Marlboro, is treated with ammonia to create a more alkaline smoke, releasing the nicotine in a freer form so that you will smoke more that there are still zero (please correct me if I am wrong, Dr. Russo) deaths due to only cannabis use...
Last I checked, Barry McCaffrey still maintains that the most dangerous drug is a 12 year old smoking pot. If you think he is right, I feel obliged to ask, what are YOU smoking?
Think pot is dangerous? What are YOU on?
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Comment #7 posted by goneposthole on December 05, 2001 at 06:22:06 PT
These fascist pigs squeal real loud. ahreeee, rheeeee, snort, oink, oink, rheeeee, rheeee, snort, oink.Soon , the sounds we will hear will be the deafening brays of a jackass surprised as Lampwick was when he looked in the mirror at the pool hall on Pleasure Island.If they had something to say that was worth hearing, people would listen.They're good to have around to poke fun. 
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Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on December 05, 2001 at 05:11:29 PT:
Introducing Mr. Cherry
For those of you with stomachs immune to the gut-twisting, nauseating sensation of forcing yourself to read self-righteous drivel, I invite the curious (and the heavily medicated!) to have a look at Mr. Cherry's prsent job description: something interesting: he is supposed to be the "National Security Policy Analyst" for Empower America. Yet no mention of military service...which I most definitely would have included if it had been me. Another armchair warrior making policy for the US...and getting US kids and Afghan kids killed in the process? Looks like to me.To such as these, data are mutable, or ignored altogether. Toys to be played with. Thus, when he was confronted with the facts as relayed by Mr. Lynch, Mr. Cherry takes the typical neo-conservative position of answering with no answer but a continuation of the diatribe.It has always been my fondest wish that the DrugWarriors would wind up on the business end of the apparatus they so lovingly crafted to use against "those people". It would be especially ironic if they were shot and killed by the very thugs they laud as 'saviors' while trying to show them them their credentials as DrugWar supporting 'patriots'.
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Comment #5 posted by dddd on December 05, 2001 at 02:56:00 PT
Bravo el toonces
..." Sometimes I think if dddd/qqqq or Lehder would see me like this, they would advise
      me to chill out and become relaxed like they are in their posts;).."..
...I'm not sure if you're being silly about ,"relaxed" posts,..........Personally,,I would recommend against chilling out....The time for chilling out is over.....I think the frenzied nature of posts that are made under the influence of passionate dissatisfaction and dissent,,are the best!...much can be said for the "inspired outburst" school of akward,,crudely written outburst posting,brings spice,and flavor.
 ..........It's fun to have people like Mullah Bennett to agitate one into a stimulating state of anger and bewildering rage........getting pissed off,is not necessarily unhealthy.....and the way things are going,,someone's gotta start's time to rekindle the robust militant spirit of the Hippie days,,,,,,well,,maybe not..going to jail is not very pleasant,,,and I dont know about anyone else,,but the thought of this homeland securiy-ashcroft-gestapo military/police state anti terror witch hunt monster absurdity........quite frankly,,,it scares the shit out of me......keep on keepin' on.
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Comment #4 posted by el_toonces on December 05, 2001 at 02:07:15 PT:
when I read the 
original piece o' sh*t by Bennett vis-à-vis his funky flunky, Cherry-O-Cherry-O-Baby (, I got just so f**king mad reading Cherry-O-Cherry-o-Baby's quotes to effect that he and Big "Where's My Damn Cigarettes" Bill B. had unbelievably great successes which were subsequently squandered by their successor's "lack of enthusiasm" (in their marketing and sloganeering I suppose?) while escalating every aspect of the WoSD to precedented levels war as outlined in the above article, that I started using foul words like those above.The arrogance of their bootstrapping is maddening! First they lie and lie and lie for years, then in the context of a present debate, bootstrap onto to their false statements of the past as if they were citing written, proven and unimpeachable history about study results and interpretations. Then, not contented with their initial display of ignorance or outright dishonesty (had to be one or the other), and basing further, newer but even more ludicrous positions upon this "official" but false history or corrupt legacy they have created has almost become their mark in trade. Sometimes I think if dddd/qqqq or Lehder would see me like this, they would advise me to chill out and become relaxed like they are in their posts;)As an aside, has anyone heard of Bernie Goldberg’s new book about bias in the mainstream news media? He is a moderate personally I believe but in his years of employment as an Emmy winning producer at CBS News got fed up with what he saw as bias or laziness of the press. For example, he thinks a lot of the media bias he sees is due to laziness and habit. Got a story involving women’s issues? Well, NOW is the organization in your rolodex on “women’s issues, ” so call them on this question and cite their position as mainstream in your publication. Same thing, I think, with drugs, a lot of the times. Drug story? Call the Drug Czar's office or NIDA just because they’re in your Rolodex, plus it's a simple, easy and non-time consuming approach to present the viewpoints of ONDCP, DEA, et al, as authoritative. Of course, this could not explain the literal media conspiracies as cited by Dan Baum, cf. Pax omnia vobiscum, El
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Comment #3 posted by dddd on December 05, 2001 at 01:20:52 PT
I Admit.....
Bill Bennett is always remarkably spectactular...even entertaining.......he has this certain style of implied virtue,,that is enhanced by a special brand of ayatollah-esque arrogance.....This pompous,priggish,prick,,is almost amusing in a dark sort of way.......Imagine if Ashcroft was declined for AG,,,and Bill Bennett got the job....things can always be worse....dddd
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Comment #2 posted by Tim Stone on December 04, 2001 at 22:06:41 PT
About the Title...
Great article from a good, alternative, libertarian mag. I just have a little problem with the editorial title: "What's Bill Bennett Been Smoking?"Does anyone else have a real problem with that noxious phrase, "What's X been smokin'?" Anyone who comes out with an oddball idea or action can be sneeringly dismissed by the use of this magic phrase. It seems to presume that to "smoke" something in this context means "drugs", most likely cannabis, and if one has smoked pot one is therefore hopelessly deluded and out of touch with some observable, verifiable reality. And therefore what one says may safely be ignored without bothering to actually listen. It's an idiot, meaningless, ad hominem phrase that should never be used by anyone. But if it must be used - free speech and all that - please leave it to the drug warriors. Anytime a drug reformer uses the phrase, it just reinforces the silly stereotypes - like that of the Crazed Druggie - that keep public support for the drug war high. So to speak. 
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Comment #1 posted by jtree on December 04, 2001 at 22:03:24 PT:
What a moron this Cherry is?
Prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas.You can clearly see that everything he says(and writes) is complete BS. He makes it up as he goes along, and he sucks at that on top of it.Peace.Jtree
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