Monday, November 07, 2016

JANET RENO: WHAT I KNEW

For a brief period, Janet Reno and I were together on the board of directors of a natiohal prosecutorial organization. We were probably in the same room three times and on complex conference calls another six times.

As the State Attorney of one of the biggest and most drug-laden counties in the United States, she had major clout but never pushed any particular agenda in this organization. She was a good member, unremarkable.

But what I know about her as a leader was quite remarkable.

Even before the Internet and intricate listservs for legal specialties, there was a special bond among major case prosecutors throughout this state. One of my close friends was the lead felony prosecution in a major urban County and Illinois. He told me privately he was going to Miami to interview for chief Deputy to Janet Reno. I asked him point-blank if he knew how that opening had arisen. This was at the height of the powder cocaine "Miami Vice" era. He said yes that he knew his predecessor had been assassinated by the cartel. We joked about him enjoying a couple of days nice weather, interviewing with Janet Reno and returning to his major County and comfortable job.

A few days later, my friend called me. He announced "I start in Miami the first of next month!"

I was astonished. I said something like "did you really like the beach that much?" He said "nah, I'm married with two kids. That scene doesn't do anything for me."

Well, "did you like the city?"

"No, it's hard to drive there and the buildings all have a scummy film on them."

Finally, I just gave up. "Okay, then why the Hell did you take the job?"

"When that lady tells you you have the opportunity to fight organized crime and what amounts to murder for profit and it is time for you to decide how you want to use your talents, you just don't turn her down!"

Fortunately, my friend was not assassinated. He had a fine career and retired but I learned a lot that day about the leadership skills and inspirational capacity that the younger version of Janet Reno possessed.

There are those who believe that the job of Atty. Gen. of the United States was not a good fit for her and that may or may not be so. But she could lead urban prosecutors and maintain the trust of a diverse complex County in a very difficult time. That was not bad.

Farewell, General and thank you for your service.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

HEROIN IN THE TRI-STATES PART ii--"DRUG OF THE MONTH"

Please forgive me but, to make sense of all this, you will probably have to go back and at least skim my November 2 posting on the history of morphine sulfate in our area.

As I mentioned earlier, the problem with being addicted to a substance, particularly a controlled substance, is not necessarily the cumulative physical effect of the substance but the undeniable and discouraging fact that one is, indeed addicted.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A "DRUG OF THE MONTH"

There was a time when the abiding, polite society, feeling was that our sort of native "ditch weed" was relatively harmless but the exotic Mexican brown and sensamilian varieties of marijuana would surely kill all our children.  It was sort of an updated version of "Reefer Madness". 

Then there was the powder cocaine craze and there is no denying that that stuff is both cumulatively and occasionally immediately dangerous.  But many exploited it politically.

Then in the 90s and through this century developed all of the various varieties of meth, from your basic stupid Nazi dope to the slightly more streamlined versions that are available now. And overlapping with this metamorphosis was the transition from powder cocaine to crack cocaine which was basically just another way of cutting the product.  All were politicized as heralding the end of socienty as we know it.

Now, for all the reasons I laid out a few days ago, heroin is back to being noticeable and, candidly, heroin dealers and heroin users have become reckless in its use.

THE "DRUG OF THE MONTH" WILL ALWAYS BE POLITICIZED

So, what one thing do all these waves of up-and-coming drugs have in common?

Every stinking one of them was exploited by candidates running for law enforcement officers, most particularly States Attorney and Sheriff. 

During one particular heated race, a former Sheriff and a few associated peace officers dashed around town grabbing a few ounces of marijuana here and there, all the while happily issuing press releases.  Putting little stickers on what hey seized.  Not evidence stickers, mind you. They called this foolishness "operation Octopus." They would put stickers on their meager seizures with pictures of a smiley little, octopus to show this was another crimefighting superachievement by "Operation Octopus"Of course, they used that as a basis for trying to keep a certain person in office.

The various "I fight meth" campaigns that have gone on over the last dozen years or so in our area are no different.  Well, actually, I guess they are since they used a methodology designed fight a pyramidal scheme when the meth trade is actually circular, but that discussion for another day.

Folks, it is a universal truth. A certain percentage of the population is going to abuse intoxicants. A certain percentage of that percentage is going to abuse illegal intoxicants. We can't guess what the "the drug of the month" will be next election or even next year but we can rest assured, from hundreds of years of human behavior, that there will be one.

Right now we have a local race for sheriff. Both of these candidates are aware that the heroin trade has become more open and notorious and that it presents, above all else, one Hell of a public health threat. One of them goes around saying "heroin, heroin, heroin, heroin, heroin, heroin!" And trashes the other because he does not frequently use the word. That's just another form of "drug of the month campaigning" with a little cut and paste from the "islamic terrorism" gambit on the national scene.

I know it's fair to say that both of these people truly know that there is not a great deal a County Sheriff can do to abate a problem that is mostly compartmentalized in one quadrant of the city of Quincy. This is a task force and QPD problem. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that out. 

The other problem with campaigning against the "drug of the month" is it requires one to actually give a plan as to how that drug and/or addiction generally would be combated. We have had a silly, non-– evidence based approach to meth for at least the last 10 years, maybe more where we have never adapted the prosecution method to the delivery system. Now, heroin, which has a completely different delivery system, would require a different prosecution and a different investigative approach but Adams County drug enforcement has not changed its investigative approach, give or take a few new toys, in several dozen years so there is really no reason to think that either candidate for sheriff can make a particular impact on a problem that is, at once, national and simultaneously confined to pretty much one quadrant of our city.

Morphine sulfate tragically ruins lives. Nobody is arguing to the contrary. But the idea that the election of either of these humans to the office of Adams County Sheriff, which has, as a constant, many statutorily required duties and many other law enforcement issues to contend with, will affect the natural ebb and flow of the addictive public's selection of the "drug of the month" is a little silly. The insertion of one person or another in a police or prosecutive role has never done that and it's not likely to start now..

Heroin is bad stuff. Heck, any controlled substance abused is bad stuff. But anybody who tells you that his election will stave off trafficking in the "drug of the month" is simply flying in the face of seven or eight centuries of human behavior. It did not take the Chinese that long to figure out that there are always going to be a certain number of addicts and they are best just safely streamed the way for the population.

We hire a Sheriff to maintain a support system for a courthouse and for the orderly conduct of our courts, to serve papers and to maintain a jail. If there is any money left over, it is fine for the sheriff to do some policing but we do not hire the head of that rather large and well-funded office to go around kicking in doors, saving addicts from themselves.

Vote for whomever you will for sheriff but please, do not do so on a false premise.  Stamping out the "drug of the month" is time-proven false premise.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

ROSSIE: LOVING THE ASPRATIONAL

Fans, opponents, umpires, media, teammates and everybody in general loves David Ross, assortedly known as Rossie or "Grandpa Rossie".

On a team with the freakish talent of Kris Bryant or the incredibly graceful power and fielding skills of the enormous Anthony Rizzo, the defensive wizardry of Addison Russell, the dogged professionalism of Ben Zobrist and the strange brew of skills that make up Javier Baez, we are amazed at those people. But we love Rossi.

Why is that?.

He doesn't say anything particularly profound.  Beyond being somewhat affable, there is nothing remarkable or compelling about him in the magnetic way of Ben Hogan or Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant. He doesn't do anything charitable off the field beyond what his positive and remarkable teammates do. All in all he hits under .240 and he plays a little under 25% of the available innings.  In most places they just call that "Third String Catcher."

But we love him.

I think we love him because he is an aspirational target. In whatever we do, we probably lack the inherent talent to be on the extre,e far side of the bell shaped curve as are Bryant, Rizzo, Russell, Chapman and maybe even Zobrist. Most of us don't even have the unknown and inestimable potential of Wilson Contreras or Javier Baez. And that, of course is before we even begin to discuss the freaky and mysterious hand-eye coordination of Kyle Schwarber. We can admire those people. Particularly in the case of Rizzo we can like their personalities. We can certainly pull for them and be happy when they are happy. But we cannot, in our lives as nurses, postmen, truck drivers or contractors, BE them.

This gets us back to Rossie. With the effort that he has demonstrated, we can BE Rossie. We can make ourselves a little better at something every day. We can help our teammates learn and get better every day. We can assist the people around us to appreciate the moments that are presented to us.  We can cheer for the achievements of those close to us and, if we have the courage, we can do what Rossie did Tuesday night. We can tell people that we love them.

So Rossie is more than an honorary captain and more than a proven winner.   Rossie is the best kind of role model. He is the person who has taken relatively ordinary skills and made the most of himself while, in the process, uplifting everyone around him. Some days we fail but we love Rossie because being Rossie is within our grasp

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

ADDICTION, HEROIN, POLITICS AND "HAIR ON FIRE' IN GENERAL" PART ONE


HEROIN PANIC--REPLAYING AN OLD FILM

Maybe two or three years ago we started hearing about  heroin as if it were some sort of new and dangerous epidemic casting itself across the tri-states like some sort of unforeseen locust plague. There was this childlike belief that heroin circulating in our cities was some sort of new thing.

Moreover, when we hear the word "meth" we think of a filthy, makeshift lab in a trailer park and the subject with pock marks and missing teeth. We do not think of any particular loss of human capital. The meth user is presumed to have been an irredeemable bottom feeder anyway.

When we hear "heroin" we think "intercontinental ballistic missile of street drugs.".  It's a terrifying buzzword, which is why politicians deploy it with alacrity.

To the notion that heroine as a street drug is some new phenomenon in the tri-states U say, "nonsense!" More on that later.

The problem with being dependent upon an addictive substance is not the substance of choice, itself. It is the fact that the subject is addicted. Without question, some substances are more immediately dangerous than others, at least in the short run.

But the emphasis on drug of choice is improperly placed. A practicing addict will eventually cease to be able to function in society. Societies deal with the differently. In China, they have adopted the cheapest approach which is simply subsistence and opium dens, where the addicts get blissfully remain addicted until their respective bodily functions shut down. At least in the opium dens of China, the veteran attic's can show the rookies how to avoid killing themselves. m  In the USA we are all over the place.  We send them to prison or we pump them full of methadone.  Pick one.  Roll your own.

Back in the early 80s when the drug of choice was powder cocaine, it would be impossible to estimate how many recreational cocaine users became addicts and ultimately had to be rushed to the emergency room to prevent circulatory collapse. I watched many of these brought back to life by a physician friend of mine, one guy twice in the same night (that guy is still alive today)

Every major street drug has its danger.

HISTORY OF HEROIN IN THE TRI-STATES

The history of heroin in the tri-state is a robust one and one that speaks to old-fashioned marketing and quality control standards. My institutional memory of this scene goes back to the 60s and I am fortunate to have worked with folks who  passed on their anecdotes to me dating back to the 40s and 50s.

It surprises nobody that up through the late 70s, Quincy had an active prostitution scene. If there is one thing upon which a bet can safely move be placed it is that prostitution does not operate very well unless liberally lubricated by heroin. Where there is prostitution, there is heroin.

In the 40s and 50s there were always three for dealers and they competed vigorously with one another for regular business not just the bulk business of prostitutes (which had to be discounted). Dead customers were a very unfortunate marketing feature and so these dealers were careful to teach their buyers proper tie-off technique and to make sure that their morphine sulfate was cut with the appropriate amount of, usually strontium nitrate.   Except for accidental polydrug situations, very few people died from heroin overdoses. They may have gradually died from the inevitable abscesses, constipation and slowing of peristalsis but they did not die from hotshots.

Into the 1970s things changed. There was one monopolistic heroin dealer in town. He had a very solid and regular job at an educational institution. He had a very well-connected family. He was charming and polite. He was well groomed, punctual and when he died an accidental but natural death had something like 240 sick days built up at his work because he never missed work. he was that reliable.  A knowledgeable source told me he had never even touch morphine product to this tongue to test it and certainly never ingested it.

There was not a detective in any police agency who did not know who this candyman was.

But he could never be caught or prosecuted because he had a nearly bulletproof technique. When he sold the buyer a dose of heroin, he gave that buyer an additional dose  and he required that the buyer use the additional, free dose then and there in front of the dealer. This was done under the guise of a tutorial but it also eliminated undercover officers. Indeed, this phony tutorial probably did prevent a number of addicts from killing themselves with improperly rendered or hotshots but, again, this particular dealer was, in his own way, exercising quality control. With all due respect to the GE originators, this was a heroin dealer participating in at least one phase of  "Six Sigma" quality control.

In any event, as I have already suggested, this gentleman died as the result of an accident having nothing to do with heroin in probably the early to mid 90s.

He really didn't have many lieutenants but a few of them tried to carry on the business and pretty much just messed it up. They didn't so much get caught as couldn't work the business model and, when one doesn't have cash, the wholesalers don't wholesale.

The next phase of this saw a good deal of the heroin trade moving to Hannibal. I really don't know why but it isn't like the dealers there didn't cross the river to sell to Illinois attic's as enthusiastically as they did to Missouri addicts.

Then, in the early part of this century,the  pain control drug OxyContin somehow got comprehensively out-of-control and there was simply way too much of it on the street. There was almost no end to the creative ways people were putting the stuff into their bodies. When OxyContin got more tightly controlled, it turned out that heroine had about the same kick and was cheaper. So heroin became a more mass purchased drug than it had been in the prostitution days or in the monopolist days.  It sort of occupied the space that powder cocaine grabbed in the 80's..  There are those who say millennials are less attentive to detail. There are those who say that drug dealers are less conscientious today about how, with what and to what extent the cut there morphine sulfate. It's probably some of all of it.

The bottom line is that we have about the same number of addicts we've always had. We've got a few more opiate users because of the enormous addictive powers of Oxy and its aftermath and we've got people, buyers and sellers, who are just much more careless.

Nonetheless, I would submit to you that the biggest problem with addictive drugs in the tri-states, or anywhere, is the impact of addiction not the risk of the drug, itself.   In that regard, nothing is changed. There are those who say America, in general, is becoming more stupid. While I don't necessarily buy that, I do concede there is some evidence of it.  It just seems a little too stark to say that we are ,killing ourselves with heroin for the same reasons our manufacturing is being outsourced, we are just too stupid to be successful.  Some argue that the current election is the best evidence of it and there is something to that.

The plain fact is that Quincy had a robust heroin trade in the 1940s, in the 1950s, in the 1960s, not to mention a very steady, robust but confined heroin monopoly in the late 70s 80s and into the mid-90s. Now we have about the same level of heroin and just a whole lot less understanding of how it is to be handled and how an ethical heroin dealer (it is their own ethnic, but it is one) handles his customers.

Politics aside, there is nothing new under the sun, people.

ADDICTION IS THE PROBLEM

When you are an addict, your problem is that you are an addict, not the substrance you happen to ingest that day to feed your addiction.

Friday, July 01, 2016

JUDGE HENZE: WATCH AND LEARN

     Think you can't elevate yourself because you have to work a day job?

     Think you can't elevate yourself because you can't afford education?

     Think you can't advance because you have child care responsibilities?

     Think you are stifled because you live in a rural area without a lot of higher education available?

     Think you have had too many birthdays to embark on a career change/enhancement?

     Well, Bunky, none of that matters if you want it badly enough and are willing to pay the price.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you with the poster child for paying the price:  Judge Holly Henze.

Monday, June 20, 2016

PICK A SIDE OF THE GUN DEBATE: HERE IS A PLACE WE SHOULD ALL MEET

When it comes to firearm injuries and death, there are varying and intense opinions among Americans. We hear a lot of argumentation about "mental health – gun show exception – deeper background checks – punishing straw purchasers and limiting magazine size."

Whenever there is a shocking mass shooting, one side suggests some gun restrictions any other side carefully explains how that would not have stopped this particular shooting.

Let's put all that aside for the moment and see if we can find something upon which nearly everyone can agree.

Right now it is against the law of the United States of America for the CDC or the NIH, while using any government funds, to study the public health implications of firearms.

In 2014 (Nothing magic about 2014, it's just the most recent year I can get what I find to be reasonably complete raw data) there were approximately 52,000 incidents involving a firearm in which someone was hurt or killed. Just about 13,000 of those resulted in deaths. As nearly as one can tell from the data, people of all ages were implicated, firearms of all stripes were implicated, suicides were included and, of course, accidental discharges were included.

Can we all agree that, if there were a new, foreign, virus abroad in the land killing 13,000 Americans and injuring another nearly 40,000, our public health professionals would be studying it?

So right now we have a Congress that is considering gun safety measures with no benefit of cross-tabulated data because Congress, itself, has outlawed our best public health statisticians from creating such data.

Wouldn't it be better, smarter and a sensible use of our resources to let our public health professionals tell us, just for example, what is the population base most likely to be involved in a gun homicide? What is the length of ownership of the weapon and gun homicide? How many gun homicides are committed with a weapon that was straw purchased?   how many gun homicides are committed with gun show purchased weapons? How many weapons used in deadly or great bodily harm attacks are actually purchased at gun shows using the dreaded "gun show exception…"? How many of those would the purchaser have qualified anyhow?  How many of the homicides are actually a lawful gun owner deploying his weapon to prevent a felony or other murder?

Does anybody actually think that by not studying how, when why and by whom fatal and catastrophic shots are fired that we might be able to better craft sensible, constitutional legislation and subordinate regulations that actually respond to the problem is a public health problem?  Do we really believe that we should make our decisions on the basis of  slogans, memes and chants?

I think it was Socrates, later co-opted by Einstein who said" a question well asked is half answered."

Because of our lack of penetrating study on this rather obvious public health issue, we are not only failing to ask the question well but maybe attempting to answer all the wrong questions.

We have good scientists, really big, really fast computers and an abundant sample size. Deep study is slowing the increase of cervical cancer, diabetes and especially macular degeneration. Statistical applications have forever changed the way wars are fought and baseball games are played. There is simply no valid argument against applying the same rigor to the study of firearm injuries that we do to determining whether we should trade for this relief pitcher or that second baseman.

Knowledge is power. Can we all agree that it can't hurt anything and might actually help if we study this problem like we study other public health problems? That takes one clean, decent vote from our Congress, takes no one's guns away and limits no one's existing rights

Surely we can all agree that the anti-intellectual approach to this has long since outlived its usefulness.  Mind you, I'm a gun guy and I see absolutely no problem letting real scientists deal with real truths and come up with real cross-tabs.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

THE STANFORD RAPE'S DANGEROUS AFTERMATH.


For purposes of this discussion, let's agree that the sentence in the Stanford swimmer rape case was incorrect.  Hell, for purposes of this discussion, let's just call it an outrage.  OK, we have that covered.

I would like to argue that the effort to remove that judge from the bench for this one decision is, from a societal point of view, contrary to the interests of having an ordered society.

The petition effort has its basis in the belief that the judiciary is somehow supposed to be "responsive" to the desires of the electorate.  This is a misunderstanding of the the third branch's role.

Legislatures are sent to vote on public policy and they are sent by electors with the expectation that they will pursue the goals that caused the people to send them to seat of government.

The Executive, President or Governor, is supposed to see to the goals the people expressed when they elected him.  To a greater or lesser extent, the legislative branch and the Executive Branch are supposed to be "responsive".  If they don't do more or less exactly what we want, we know how to get rid of them.  They must respond to us.

We send (and every state does this differently) judges to the bench to be impartial and to apply the law to the facts without fear or favor.  Think about this:  It is impossible to be BOTH impartial and responsive at the same time.  In judges, we prize and seek judges who are skilled, of course, but, above all, are imbued with impartiality and integrity.  If society, or aspects of it, can recall or bully judges into deciding things "their" way, then we have no more independent judiciary.  Or, to put it another way, we have no effective third branch of government.

It is not difficult to imagine how badly a two-legged stool works.

Australia went through kind of similar social movement last decade.  Their then Chief Justice, Sir Gerard Brennan (no relation to Babs) had some interesting remarks and observations then, that apply nicely to our current situations.

" But the implications for our society are profound. Judicial independence does not exist to serve the judiciary; nor to serve the interests of the other two branches of government. It exists to serve and protect not the governors but the governed. But, you may ask, if that is so, why do we see so much ill-informed criticism of the judiciary? There are many answers to this question, but it cannot be doubted that one answer is this: there is a lack of awareness of the extent to which the peace and order of our society depend upon the maintenance of a strong and independent judiciary as the third arm of government...."

"The reason why judicial independence is of such public importance is that a free society exists only so long as it is governed by the rule of law - the rule which binds the governors and the governed, administered impartially and treating equally all those who seek its remedies or against whom its remedies are sought. However vaguely it may be perceived, however unarticulated may be the thought, there is an aspiration in the hearts of all men and women for the rule of law."

"  Judicial independence is the priceless possession of any country under the rule of law. The public are entitled to insist on its observance by the judges and on its protection by the Parliament and the Executive."

There is a price to be paid for judicial independence.  The absence of recall or ballot initiatives is one price.  This necessarily means the occasionally "clanger".  Many would argue that the Stanford sentence was one of those clangers.  The judge exercised his independence in a way that angered many people.  Many of those angry people would trade the concept of an independent judiciary for the "feel good" proposition that they can "get" a judge for one arguably poorly conceived decision.  As Chief Justice Brennan points out, that is a bad trade, giving up judicial independence to scratch a short time itch.

Ask yourself, "do I want to know I'm getting a truly impartial judge for my case, whatever it may be, when it comes before the court or do I want a judge who must necessarily cower before petition drives and ballot initiatives?"

On the federal side, why do you think the drafters created lifetime appointments for members of the judiciary.  THAT's how important they thought a tamper-proof judiciary was.


NOTE: nothing in this discussion is intended to discuss the details of the Stanford rape case.  I said my piece on that on facebook.  I welcome your comments on judicial independence here but let's not rehash the rape case because it is beside the point of this submission.