Out of The Shadows 

Out of The Shadows 
Posted by FoM on August 17, 2000 at 13:24:20 PT
By Alan W. Bock
Source: Orange County Register 
Much of the coverage of the "Shadow Conventions" that have been held alongside the Republican and Democratic conventions this year has focused on atmospherics and certainly the atmospherics are there. One spokesman told a reporter the get-together at Patriotic Hall in Los Angeles this year would be like a 24-hour "happening," and in some ways it was. Aging hippies mingled with Generation Y malcontents and Yuppies in suits, all talking about the need for thoroughgoing change in the system, change the two major parties weren't likely to address with any degree of seriousness. 
Arianna Huffington provided whatever star power and glamour she possesses and the crowds packed into every corner of the hall and the eight floors of the building were enthusiastic and noisy. Some of the street protestors dropped by. It was all very colorful, to say the least. Beyond the atmospherics, however, the Shadow people delivered on the promise to provide substantive discussion of issues. The first day's session was devoted to campaign finance reform and today's will present an impressive line-up on the problem of enduring poverty amid impressive economic growth. Yesterday's sessions on the "Failed Drug War" brought together experts and folks on the front lines that made it an impressive and comprehensive one-day program on aspects of the drug war. Perhaps most impressive was the number of elected officials from both parties willing to "come out" with a conviction other officials share but lack the political cover or intestinal fortitude to say: the drug war has not only failed to keep drugs from "our kids" and can't succeed, it has done immeasurable harm to the American social fabric and to millions of peoples' lives. I knew that Gary Johnson, the Republican governor of New Mexico, had questioned the drug war. I was not prepared for him to be so strong in his convictions, so well-informed, so willing to put himself on the line for what he thinks is right. Gov. Johnson is the kind of Republican any conservative would be proud to embrace. He's a self-made businessman, building a one-man handyman service in 1974 into a company that employed 1,000 people in 1994. He's a fiscal conservative. He's an athlete who works out every day and has run the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii three times, a happily married father of two daughters. He doesn't smoke, drink or do any kind of drugs. For whatever reason, however, he has developed a capacity to make intelligent distinctions. He urges everyone he knows not to use alcohol or tobacco, but doesn't think they should be illegal. He notes, however, that some 400,000 people die prematurely from using tobacco, several hundred thousand die prematurely from using alcohol - and 5,000 people a year die from all the drugs the government has declared illegal. "We are willing to arrest 1.6 million people a year - half for marijuana, half of those Hispanic and a disproportionate percentage of the rest African-American - to fail to prevent those deaths," he says. "It doesn't make sense and it does a great deal of harm. A business with such policies would have been bankrupt years ago." One of the more egregious side effects of the war on drugs, Gov. Johnson notes, is that it destroys the capacity to make distinctions. "About 95 percent of the people who use marijuana do so the way other Americans drink a cocktail, and everybody knows it," he says. "Yet law enforcement is forced to treat every one of those people as somebody with a serious problem who needs to be in forced rehabilitation. It's just not so, and a policy based on a lie is bound to fail." Orange Countians know about Judge Jim Gray, who introduced Gov. Johnson. But I didn't know Mayor Ross "Rocky" Anderson of Salt Lake City not only ended city support for the DARE program but is using his position to call for rethinking the drug war. "Politicians are more terrified of a 30-second attack ad than of supporting an ineffective, wasteful, inhumane policy that destroys families," he says. Maybe that's changing. Rep. Tom Campbell, the Republican candidate for U. S. Senate in California spoke, and has developed into a forceful drug war critic. Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters was on the program. Rep. John Conyers, the veteran Michigan Democrat wasn't, but came by to lend support. California state Sen. Tom Hayden was there, sounding like a moderate compared to others. A state legislator from Oregon came. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were unscheduled speakers. Jesse Jackson came. Comedians Bill Maher and Al Franken appeared. Doctors and patients told their stories. You didn't see any of that inside Staples. Maybe next time. Mr. Bock is the Register's senior editorial writer. Published: August 16, 2000 Source: Orange County Register (CA)Copyright: 2000 The Orange County RegisterContact: letters link.freedom.comAddress: P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711Fax: (714) 565-3657Website: Articles & Web Sites:The Shadow Conventions Convention 2000 News Board MapInc. Articles On The Shadow Conventions: CannabisNews Articles On The Shadow Conventions: 
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