Tag Archive: Drug Mules

Demi Lovato: Her Confessions Prove The Drug War’s Hypocrisy and Failure

Cross Posted from http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

One of the most infuriating aspects of the ruinous “War on Drugs” of the past several decades has been the glaring statistics concerning who gets arrested, convicted and sentenced and who does not. I would not be informing anyone of anything new if I told you that an overwhelming majority of those incarcerated for drug offenses are poor, people of color, or both.

The statistics are plain enough to see. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, 61 percent of all convicts in for drug offenses are non-white. In Mexico, the war has become literal, with over 70,000 killed (most horrifically) in the struggle for the U.S. market. Meanwhile, the Federal government continues to pour billions into drug enforcement plans and schemes and operations and agencies.

But perhaps the most glaring example of hypocrisy in the drug war is of a more recent revelation. As a teacher and a parent, when I first read about her, I was really, really angry. She’s one of the most popular celebrities around. From her early sitcom days to her struggles with bipolar disorder to her hosting of American Idol and her pop hits, she’s climbed to the top. You might not know her, but her face graces dozes on teen and young adult magazines weekly. I’m talking about a former darling of the Disney Channel, Demi Lovato.

Lovato has done a good job recently painting herself as a heroic figure amongst young people. She’s very open about her struggles with depression and mania, and her battle with cocaine addiction. Last year she recounted that at one point her addiction had such a hold on her she couldn’t go more than a half hour without doing a line. Today, according to the young starlet, she’s clean and trying to focus on her health and career. She’s young, rich and beautiful – and talented – and I don’t really have any doubt that her career will continue to grow.

But one article about her in particular infuriated me. Last year, speaking to a reporter from Access Hollywood, Lovato, probably not after consulting with her own P.R. crew, admitted to an extremely serious Federal offense – or rather – and entire class of them. Lovato boasted that at one point her addiction was so powerful that she willingly smuggled and used cocaine during her airborne interstate and/or international travels:

“I couldn’t go 30 minutes to an hour without cocaine, and I would bring it on airplanes,” Lovato revealed. “I would smuggle it basically and just wait until everyone in first class would go to sleep, and I would do it right there. I’d sneak to the bathroom, and I’d do it. That’s how difficult it got and that was even with somebody [with me]. I had a sober companion, somebody who was watching me 24/7 and living with me [and] I was able to hide it from them as well.” (Emphasis mine)

Adults need to back up here. Perhaps teens and tweens will admire Lovato for such a mea culpa, but older Americans know better. What Lovato admitted to was, at the least, unlawful interstate drug smuggling, importation and use. This isn’t the same, from the D.E.A.’s point of view, as someone smoking a joint or two in the privacy of their own home. No, this is huge. These crimes are the very same offenses that hundreds of thousands of young men and women are serving decades-long sentences in Federal and State prisons for. I don’t think I would be exaggerating when I state that there are many young people (in their 20’s and 30’s) serving the near equivalent of life sentences for such crimes either.

But Lovato, our strong, struggling starlet, gets a pass. Others get 20-25 years in a bleak Federal Penitentiary, but Demi gets a round of applause, or two. And now she’s marketing herself as a role model. Hey, Demi, do you think those people in solitary are depressed? Do you think that those hundreds of thousands of women, used by the cartels as drug mules and are now serving decades behind bars, do you think they struggle with dark days? Are you kidding me?

I wonder – and I am doing so honestly – if in the weeks after she made such revelations, she was visited by any of the D.E.A. agents whose partners were gunned down by armed dealers? Or perhaps she received some thoughtful letters from a young Mexican child who lost a parent to a drug cartel? I doubt it.

Look, I’m not calling for the immediate arrest and conviction of Demi Lovato. I wish her well. But her example, her hypocrisy, cannot be given a pass. Lovato’s admission and her crimes, and the failure of the government to follow up on them, are proof that this “War on Drugs” isn’t working. The wrong people are being punished, ruined and obliterated while the rich continue to buy, fuel murderous violence, and go on to brag about it.

Think about that the next time your kid wants you to buy a Demi Lovato poster, or you read of another 20 year conviction of a poverty-stricken 22 year old woman for drug smuggling.

An open letter to Rowan University President, Dr. Ali A. Houshmand

Cross-posted from Marie’s blog. Promoted by Rosi.

I understand that you have invited Gov. Chris Christie to be the keynote speaker at next month’s commencement ceremonies and that you are bestowing an honorary degree on him. Why?

As you well know, Rowan University started out as a teachers college, and in fact in 1937, the school’s name was changed to New Jersey State Teachers College at Glassboro. Your school’s own website describes it thus:

“The college gained a national reputation as a leader in the field of reading education and physical therapy when it opened a clinic for children with reading disabilities in 1935… The college was one of the first in the country to recognize these needs and was in the forefront of the special education movement.” (emphasis mine)

Correct me if I am wrong, but no other New Jersey governor has treated public education, students and teachers with such vile contempt as Gov. Christie. No other New Jersey governor that I know of has denigrated, demonized and tried to destroy one of the best public education systems in the country the way Gov. Christie has. He has cut billions from education funding, which has resulted in 10,000 educators losing their jobs. He has contributed to and expanded the racial and socioeconomic segregation of our urban school districts with policies like One Newark. He has accused teachers of being ‘greedy, selfish and disgraceful’ and using our students as ‘drug mules’. If you need more proof, here it is, and as blogger, TeacherBiz said in her post on this issue, if that’s not enough, just Google it.

Hey, Gov. Christie, are these kids drug mules too?

Yellow school buses were stacked up and down West State Street as far as the eye could see. Looks like NJ Spotlight called it right, predicting that the vast majority at today’s pro-voucher rally at the State House steps were Catholic school students bused in for the day.

School-choice-rally-1.jpeg nj101.5.comI wonder. Do you think our pro-voucher, Catholic school parent Governor thinks these kids are drug mules too?

You remember this, right? Back from when Christie was gleefully building his national street cred as a bullyboy. Before he blamed that same reputation on the press. The Guv sure didn’t have any trouble calling public school kids drug mules for being the unwitting, cute little messengers of what their teachers and schools needed them to push. In his opinion.

This is big-time stuff, in case you mistook it for some kind of grassroots movement. Today’s rally was coordinated by a PR company called Jaffe Communications, who brag about the expensive-sounding advertising buys in targeted legislative districts, including billboards, bus advertising, and posters. To say nothing of the firm’s coordinated pitch of Op-Eds to news outlets.  

Deep Thought: Choicers

So, at the Assembly Budget Committee hearing in Camden County today, there were a lot of kids rallying for school “choice” today, instead of, you know, going to school. See, I don’t remember much support from the charter-voucher fans when thousands of students walked out of school last Spring in protest of Christie education cuts to public schools, and that was an action organized by students, not their parochial schools.

Besides – if these were public school kids out today, they’d be drug mules. Wouldn’t they? Just trying to get clear.  

The Press Was Elsewhere!

This past Thursday was a busy day for many of us, but if one just read the mainstream press, you might not have realized it.

It was Women’s Healthcare Week, and many of our women legislators decided to mark the occasion by protesting Governor Christie’s wiping out all the dollars ($7.5million) in the Family Planning budget.  As has been noted before, this money is earmarked for uninsured or underinsured men and women who get HIV testing, cervical cancer screening, family planning information and general reproductive health care through these centers. Joined by Assemblywomen Valerie Huttle, Linda Stender, Linda Greenstein, Elise Evans, Cleopatra Tucker, Pam Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Mila Jasey, Joan Voss, and Connie Wagner, we held a well attended press conference, that is except the press! Though, NJN did stop in for a brief moment or two. Apporximately 50 pink shirt supporters joined us bringing along hundreds of signed post cards protesting these cuts!  The cards were delivered to the Governor’s office. Do you think he’ll read them? In my remarks, I suggested some cuts to other programs within the budget to transfer much needed funds to this program.  Let’s see if the Governor will look at these re-ordering of priorities, and we’ll know if this budget cut is a matter of dollars or a matter of philosophy!

My next stop was the Senate State Government Committee meeting to speak for my bill giving the Governor veto power over the minutes of the Passaic Valley Sewer Authority and the North District Water Commission.  These were the only two commissions we could find which were State appointments with no governor veto power.  I reminded the committee, that I started on this road several years ago and first coined the description “shadow governments” to describe these authorities. In 2007 when Assembly colleagues Gordon Johnson, Valerie Huttle and I first  took a look at the PVSA, we found that over a six year period, they spent more than $13 million on legal fees, and more than $3 million on consultants. Included in the consultant fees was $100,00 for a well connected flak to produce a children’s coloring book called, “Messy Marvin”.  Makes Brian Christiansen look like one of the pikers of the hangers on at the PVSA. It’s all so outrageous!

And as outrageous, is it took several years to get this bill posted in committee. Since Governor Christie has rightly made an issue of these “shadow governments” which spend millions of our tax dollars and user fees with very little accountability, this bill should pass both houses before the summer break.

Next was the Judiciary Committee meeting
where we approved the nominations of Lori Grifa as the Commissioner of Community Affairs and Harold Wirths as the Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development.  Acting Commissioner Wirths was closely questioned about his lack of experience (he has been a Republican county Freeholder) in the area of labor relations.  I was concerned with his continuing in his Freeholder position while serving as an “acting commissioner”.  Asked OLS for an opinion on the subject, and they said it was important to get an Ethics Board ruling.  It was claimed that such a ruling had been forthcoming last February which gave him permission as long he turned down his Freeholder salary.  I still believe this could be a court challenge, but since he was resigning both his elected position and his service on a bank board with his confirmation, it became moot.  Both nominees now move to the full Senate for a vote.

We all know we have a reduced statehouse press corps., and they were covering the Millionaire’s Tax hearing and the Lesniak theater action for the voucher bill held on the statehouse lawn. Curious juxtaposition! Several hundred religious and private school students were brought to Trenton to support the Lesniak/Kean bill. I didn’t hear anyone from the Governor’s office refer to them as “Drug Mules” or denounce them as youngsters who had no idea why they were there.  Don’t get me wrong – I think it was great that these young people got to see their government in action! They probably learned more that day than they would in classrooms. I do, however, think the Governor’s “double standard” is quite evident! Students who support Christie’s initiatives can get the day off from school, but those students who disagree with his cuts to public schools deserve to be derided and insulted.  

The prior Monday, I had the great pleasure of joining Senator Ray Lesniak for our book signing at Kean College for “What’s Love Got to Do With it“, about the fight for Marriage Equality in the New Jersey State Senate. It’s a beautiful book with wonderful pictures and contains many of the words which were shared on January 7, 2010.  There were more than 100 people who turned out for this event at the new Kean Human Rights Institute. My thanks to Ray for including me in this adventure. Yes I know: Lesniak & Weinberg – definitely an odd couple – but fun nevertheless!

So all this while the very much smaller group of print media folks were elsewhere. And how about Channel 12? Do they ever really cover New Jersey News live? Seems every time I turn them on they are doing the “Weather on the Ones” or the “Pet Doctor”. We need to keep NJN. They are the only statewide New Jersey television news. I’ve written to the administration  to try and find out if anyone has actually worked on a plan to transition NJN into a private company. And what happens to their state owned assets? Lots of unanswered questions here, but we must work to preserve this NJ television news.

Keep your voices heard!