04/13/14 Kevin Zeese

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Kevin Zeese of PopularResistance.org re drug war, economy, human rights + DA Candidate of Houston Kim Ogg & Steve Nolin of Houston NORML re forthcoming 420 events.

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / April 13, 2014


[scratchy record sound]

Pfizer and Merck kill more of us than the cartel’s crap ever could.


DEAN BECKER: Hello, my friends, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We gotta jump right in to it.


KEVIN ZEESE: This is Kevin Zeese. I’m with Popular Resistance which is we get together all the social movements trying to create a better country. Popular Resistance is really a great project. What it does is bring together all the sub-movements that are working toward economic and social justice in this country. It includes everything from mass incarceration and drug war to regulating bankers, providing health care to all, dealing with the ecological problems that we face in this country, worker rights and poverty wages so it deals with a whole lot of issues.

That’s what we love about it because all these issues really are connected. They are connected because they are about righting injustices and they are connected because they all face the same problem which is the rule of money where people can profit from all the mistakes we are currently making on these issues in this country. It’s kind of an opportunity for me with Popular Resistance to bring all the various things I work together under one umbrella.

What we see happening is in a broad sense is two big areas of transformation – the economy and the government. On the economy right now we have a big financed capitalist economy that sends wealth to the top and serves really the top .1%. It does not serve the rest of us. The rest of us...most people in the United States are a few paychecks away from being out on the streets and many people are living in poverty – 45 million in poverty for the last three years, a record number of people in poverty in the United States. The economy is not working.

What’s coming up in its place is what is called economic democracy. Something related to that is called http://itsoureconomy.us and that’s really trying to put in place economic and democratic institutions like worker-owned businesses, worker-owned co-ops, land trust to control the value of housing and allow the community to decide how the community develops rather than the developers, cooperative banks (also known as credit unions and community banks as well as public banks which are the banks owned by the cities, state or federal government.) Right now there is a public bank in North Dakota that’s been around for about 100 years and is very effective. That’s all economic democratic principles that put people more in charge of their lives and give them more control over the direction of the economy. So that’s one thing that is happening. The economy is transforming from big finance capitalism to economic democracy.

Secondly a thing that is happening on government. Representative democracy is failing us. It is corrupted by big money, by the rule of money and, as a result, we are not really represented. We are seeing more direct democracy and we are seeing more participatory democracy. This goes down to the community level where communities are holding general assemblies. It also goes to local budgets with participatory budgeting when communities decide how portions of their budget gets spent and it goes to direct democracy. We saw that early in the War on Drugs where if it wasn’t for direct democracy...first the people of San Francisco voted for medical marijuana, the people of California and now we’re up to 20 states with medical marijuana. Two states have voted for legal marijuana. That wouldn’t have happened through legislatures.

Legislatures are too corrupted by the status quo – people who profit from the current system whether they are the Corrections Officers Union, for-profit prisons, or treatment programs that rely on people who are forced into treatment – all those status quo institutions who stop legislatures from moving forward so direct democracy is needed to break through on that issue.

DEAN BECKER: I want to throw in this thought that what has happened from my perspective is a diffusion, a diffraction of information. A classic example is “Tens of thousands of people are dying in Mexico - We’ll have both sides of this story at 10 o’clock.”

It is the need to support the fallacies that are existent that somehow are given sway or are given...not reverence but a recognition that perhaps they are necessary. What’s your thought?

KEVIN ZEESE: I think that there is no question that one of the keys to developing mass movement up the current right now – and there really is mass movement that is growing out of all of these sub-issues – is media. We are seeing a real transformation of media. Corporate media – you know, the CNNs and the MSNBCs and the Fox News, ABC, CBS – those kinds of media outlets are losing in a number of ways.

First off and most importantly they are losing credibility. Only one in four Americans believes the mass media gives them the whole story, the truth. That’s the lowest it’s been since we’ve done those kind of surveys and that’s done by Gallup. At the same time mass media is losing resources, money and personnel. While that’s going on we’re seeing the alternative – the independent media, citizens’ media, citizens’ radio – all that’s growing and people more and more get their information from social networks and fellow citizens and from independent media outlets so I think we’re in a stage where we are closer than we realize to independent and citizens’ media actually overtaking the corporate media. It already has more credibility than the corporate media. It just doesn’t have the organized effort behind it to really impact the people as clearly as current mass media does. If we all work together and realize how close we are to taking over as far as the information battle goes we would realize that the citizens and independent media is a key to our future. Having that right, giving people the truth, the whole story about issues is a first step towards educating them, activating them and mobilizing them.

That’s what’s critical. We need to mobilize a certain percentage, a small percentage of the population, actually, to be successful. There’s research that shows it’s a tiny percentage of the population being mobilized that causes transformation to society. Over the past hundred years research on resistance movements has found that if you mobilize 3.5% of the population the resistance movement has never lost. That resistance movement has to represent a majority view but if 3.5% are mobilized it always wins. That’s the critical range in mind. We’re not that far away from being strong enough to send the country in a much better direction.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, once again, we are speaking with Mr. Kevin Zeese.

Kevin, I first met you around 2000, 2001. You and a crew from mostly Florida came to Texas to educate and motivate our elected officials and our people. Can’t tell you the courage I saw in that effort. Everyone that I met from Scot Bledsoe to Kay Lee on down were courageous, were there in the face of this draconian state and you’re driving across Texas in RVs with big marijuana leaves on the side and touring our prisons. It takes courage to sometimes to display this indignation, this revulsion to these policies, does it not?

KEVIN ZEESE: It does. I think that was in 2000. It was during the presidential elections between Vice President Gore and Governor Bush of Texas. We really wanted to highlight the issue of mass incarceration and the war on marijuana and other drugs. We went from prison to prison in Texas. We had a loud speaker system and tried to talk to the prisoners over the wall. We had emails from prisoners’ families telling us that they heard us and really appreciated and loved knowing that people cared about them and hadn’t forgotten them. We went throughout the state and right to the Governor’s mansion. We did some audacious things.

I found that that kind of audacious action really sparks movements. People excited by people standing up and doing a justice, doing something that needs to be done. I’ve seen that in multiple movements that I’ve been involved in. Recently in the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is the largest trade agreement negotiated since the mid-1990s. It’s a terrible agreement. It’s going to empower corporations in ways that we can only imagine right now. It’s been negotiated in secret. They are trying to keep it from the American people and even from congress. It’s very hard to know what is in it. Some sections have been leaked and what we have seen has been pretty bad.

What we did to highlight this secret agreement was we went to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office which is right across the street from the White House complex at noon and we climbed to the top of their building and we dropped massive banners covering their building talking about “Release the Text”, “Democracy Not Coporate-tocracy”, “Stop the Global Corporate Coup”, “Stop the Global Trans-Pacific”

Their secret trade agreement that they were trying to keep secret was suddenly all over their building. [laughing] We did it at noon across the street from the White House where there is lots of police. What was really interesting it sparked people. It got people really excited. Now we pretty much have stalled the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Congress has refused to give the president the authority to go forward with his negotiations. There are still fights ahead but we have stalled it. If we continue this type of effort we will stop it which would be a major victory for the people over transnational power.

When you have those kind of victories then you can build on them and create an even bigger momentum. We’ve seen those kind of victories in the marijuana war starting in San Francisco voting for medical marijuana back in the mid-90s and now with Colorado and Washington voting for legalization in the last election. We’re going to see more victories that we build on there. That’s what happens. You have victories and people get more confidence. “If Colorado can do it why can’t Montana?” “If Colorado can do it why not Vermont? Why not Maine?”

They can see the tax revenue coming in. They don’t see any major problems with marijuana – massive increase of accidents or any increase of deaths or crime – none of that’s happening so now the reality is there. Other states can see it. Other people can see it and we are going to build on those successes.

DEAN BECKER: Next week I’m going to be interviewing a Houstonian who is starting up a tour service to Colorado. He’s calling it 420 something or other. I’m sure he’s going to do quite well. A lot of that money is going to be going to Colorado instead of Texas.

KEVIN ZEESE: What’s great about that is not only is he doing well and making money from it – that’s fine – but the other thing is that he is educating people. People from Texas will go to Colorado and they’ll see, “Wow, this is no big deal. This is not causing any havoc in the state of Colorado. People are functioning fine. They’re not spending as much on police and they’re making money from taxes.”

That’s also a very political and educational project that will actually educate people and I’m sure will mobilize people in Texas to try to do the same thing in Texas.

DEAN BECKER: Earlier you mentioned on that tour across Texas that you were broadcasting over the wall. I recently did something that gave me some satisfaction. I sent a copy of my book, “To End the War On Drugs: A Guide for Politicians, the Press and Public” to three inmates serving time in federal prison for marijuana charges. Eddie Lepp is one of them and George Mortarano – a man who has been in prison for almost 32 years after pleading guilty...


DEAN BECKER: Well, the DEA set him up three times...anyhow, George tells me that he is now using my book because after 30 years he is the instructor for all of the prisoners that are going to be released. He is educating them on how to better behave on the outside.

There’s no logic left. Even Eric Holder liked my book. He recommended the DEA read it. Things are changing are they not?

KEVIN ZEESE: They are changing and that kind of activity education is the foundation of. So much of what keeps the status quo in place is myth and misinformation. We are a country of myths and misinformation. The marijuana war has been built on myths and misinformation as well as on racism.

I think books like yours and so many others that have been written that talk about the real solutions and the reality about marijuana and how it could be regulated and controlled, how people can, in fact, have it in their life and enrich their life not undermine their life – those realities, I think, are essential. You have to educate people first if you are going to get them mobilized so education is the foundation of all political movements. I appreciate you writing the book and I appreciate your radio show and the other work that you have done to let people know reality because we can’t continue to act based on myth or we will continue to get lousy results that do more harm than good.

DEAN BECKER: What I am thinking is that from this point forward I’m trying to refocus my efforts not to speak so much about the right to use drugs but about the right of people to just be left alone.

KEVIN ZEESE: There’s a long strain of history in the United States that says exactly that of people being left alone. While there is a need for government to sometimes provide health care and other services when it comes down to decisions that people make for their own lives that don’t adversely affect other people in their community the government has no business getting involved. That’s really the foundation of political philosophy dating back to John Stewart and others on which this country is built. I think that’s a fair approach.

I think what we really have to do is to put forward approaches that are based on empirical research of what actually works. Let’s not go based on emotion, based on myth and based on ideology. There is enough research that shows that we can regulate and control marijuana and other drugs in much more sensible ways that are consistent with public health, consistent with reducing crime, reducing incarceration, reducing the waste of money and increasing peoples’ freedom. All of that goes together.

I think you are on the right track and I think we are finally on the right track when it comes to marijuana. It was great for me to see...I got involved in this issue back in the late 1970s when I was in law school (1979) and it was great for me to see a few years ago to go into a dispensary in California seeing people lined up with various illnesses and getting high quality, fair priced marijuana for their medical needs. What an incredible victory to see that.

It is so rare for an activist to see real change happen in their lifetime but we’re seeing it happen on this issue and others. If people keep their hope up and keep active...because as we get more people mobilized we’re going to win many more battles so keep moving forward.

DEAN BECKER: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you to share a website or two where folks can get involved.

KEVIN ZEESE: http://www.popularresistance.org/


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DEAN BECKER: It seems all across the US people are taking another look at our criminal justice system certainly we are right here in Houston, Texas. I’m privileged to have with us the democratic candidate running for district attorney, Kim Ogg. How are you doing, Kim?

KIM OGG: Great. How are you, Dean?

DEAN BECKER: I’m good. As I mentioned there is kind of a new perspective going on in regards to how we wage our drug war here in the United States. Would you agree?

KIM OGG: Well, yes from the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, to Fox News viewers I think people are taking a fresh look at who we send to prison and why we incarcerate those people and whether it’s worth it both in terms of financial and human cost.’

DEAN BECKER: Houston has in many ways kind of led this drug war. We have arrested hundreds of thousands of people here for minor amounts of drugs. Am I right?

KIM OGG: I can tell you that in 2013 over 12,000 people were arrested for possession of marijuana under 2 ounces. They went to jail for an average of 5 days and the cost was over 4 million dollars to Houston tax payers.

DEAN BECKER: And not to mention the cost to those arrested. Oft times they may lose their car to impound fees. They may lose their job, their apartment, their girlfriend. It’s a major compounding...

KIM OGG: Well, let me tell you what the law provides. It’s draconian in many ways. For a conviction of marijuana the penalty, one penalty is automatic suspension of a person’s driver’s license so this affects their employability. It’s on top of the impound fees, on top of the bond that they usually have to make to get out of jail to keep their job and it isn’t half of the problem that the permanent criminal record that these individuals get – gives them in the future – which results in housing issues and long-term job employment opportunity loss.

DEAN BECKER: Kim, the fact of the matter is we have had various approaches by the district attorneys over the last 6 or 8 years. Judge Lycos when she was in office refused to indict for those under 1/100th of a gram of cocaine or other hard drugs, correct?

KIM OGG: Right and exactly that example of policy change that people need to be aware our district attorney is capable of bringing to this town. Prior to Judge Lycos under past administrations any amount of cocaine including residue in a pipe that cannot even be tested by the defense because it’s such a small amount had sufficed to serve as the basis for thousands and thousands of convictions for second degree and third degree and statual felony levels of crime. Under Judge Lycos a new policy (the law didn’t change) but a new policy was implemented where amounts that tiny weren’t going to be considered sufficient for conviction and therefor the cases were not accepted at the intake level at our DA’s office.

When my opponent’s husband came back into power in 2014 and has continued through passing the job to my current opponent their policy has been to reinstate the policy of acceptance of tiny, tiny, tiny amounts of cocaine. So you can see that the same action was illegal prior to 2008 became only illegal at the Class C level under Judge Lycos and went back to being illegal as a felony under this new administration. So the district attorney has the power just by changing the policy to affect thousands of people’s lives who are arrested for small amounts of drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Kim, I gotta throw this in there that the 12,000 you mentioned arrested for minor amounts of marijuana last year and the additional hundreds if not thousands arrested for those miniscule amounts of drugs led us to a situation where last November the voters of Harris County were convinced that we needed to build another jail. Your response?

KIM OGG: I think that the jail issue was supported by a broader base of people than those who simply believed that we should go back to incarcerating people for small amounts of drugs, however, with at that time over 11,000 people in the Harris County Jail putting them almost 2,000 individuals over capacity you can see that it’s the acceptance of cases against the small-time drug offenders that leads to that kind of jail overcrowding.

If we weren’t accepting those charged with small amounts of drugs then it would and it has in the past reduce the jail population to a much more manageable level and a level that is lawful given their capacity.

So this policy about whether we are going to accept small-time drug offender cases really affects everything. It has a big ripple effect. It has a big ripple effect on the future of the person accused and it has a big ripple effect on how overcrowded our jail is, what kind of lawsuits we may face from the federal government to correct that problem. Through a simple change in policy we can positively affect many different aspects of the justice system from the offender to all the other offenders who have to reside or are staying in the Harris County Jail until their cases come to trial.

It’s a huge, huge policy impact and, yet, one person makes that decision and that’s the district attorney and that’s why this race is so important.

DEAN BECKER: Kim, I sent a copy of my book, “To End the War On Drugs” to your opponent, Mrs. Anderson, about one month ago and just yesterday I got a call back from them saying that they are trying to schedule an interview with me perhaps to talk about the book and certainly to talk about the race. I just recently gave you a copy of that book. The fact of the matter is more and more people and politicians, the press, the public is starting to demand a change and what would you do once elected?

KIM OGG: On the first day I take office I will end the policy of accepting trace case which is residue level meaning you can’t see that amount of cocaine cases. Currently those are accepted. They are felonies. People go to prison for them every day.

As far as marijuana cases on my first day we will change the policy of arresting those in possession of small amounts of marijuana to citing them with a citation. It orders them to misdemeanor court, county court where they used to go after they got out of jail. At that time they will be offered the opportunity for what we call pre-trial diversion where they can work in a program on the bayou that we hope to establish immediately. It will be funded through the savings that we reap from the fewer cases that are accepted at the levels I just told you about as well as drug forfeiture money that sits in the bank today in the hands and the care of the current district attorney.

That work program will bring our community great benefits. We’ll remove invasive species from the bayou, remove litter. Our waterways don’t have to look like garbage pens. They can really be beautiful and with an unlimited source of volunteer labor it’s good for the offender. It’s good for the community and those marijuana offenders won’t go off scot-free. We can’t affect the legal status or the law related to marijuana but I can stop giving people in possession of small amounts of dope who are arrested...I can keep their record from getting worse.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, once again, we’ve been speaking with Kim Ogg. She’s the democratic candidate for district attorney right here in Harris County.

Kim, would you like to share your website with the listeners?

KIM OGG: Great. I’d love to invite everybody to take a look at my campaign platform. It’s http://www.kimoggforda.com/ and the “for” is not a number it’s spelled out. I look forward to talking with you again, Dean, and I really appreciate the work and the effort that you’ve done in researching this issue and writing it down and publishing it for the world to see. I think it’s a valuable perspective and I appreciate all your efforts.


DEAN BECKER: Well, 4/20 is fast approaching. Organizations all around the country will be celebrating that marijuana-referenced date. Houston is no different. We have here to tell what’s going on in Houston in that regard Mr. Steve Nolin of Houston NORML. How are you doing, Steve?

STEVE NOLIN: Pretty good, Dean. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, 4/20 is coming up this weekend. We’re going to start ours on the 19th at the Varas Sports Bar which is 2727 North Freeway in between Patton and Calvacade. We’re going to have lots of speakers, lots of bands.

Actually it’s going to be our 25th anniversary celebration. 1999 is when Richard Lee and Nick Potthoff starting getting together as the latest incarnation of Houston NORML. We’re going to have Clay Conrad who is the author of a jury nullification book and also Michael Allen of End Mass Incarceration Project, Jerry Epstein from the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, the RAMP guys (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition), RJ Alexander, he was going to come talk out about that. Also for the agriculture commissioner, Rocky Palmquist, for the Libertarian Party is going to be out talking. It will be a lot of good information.

We’ll also have some different entertainment from some bands – Black 13, Bag of Tricks, Cowbell Kings, Bourbon and Schwartz who I’m sure you’re very familiar with, Gio Chamba, he’s a good guitarist. It ought to be a good time. We’ll have fire-spinners, blow artists – they’re going to be out there. Also a beard contest. It ought to be a good time on the 19th. We’ll ring in 420 at midnight.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. I will be emceeing this event. We hope you’ll come out, folks. It’s time to stand up, to speak up. Come out and maybe dance a little bit and have a good time. Right, Steve?

STEVE NOLIN: Oh yeah. As far as the more serious side we will have voter registration cards out there. It‘s part of being a democracy. You need to be able to have the power to vote to make the laws the way that you want it and get the people in there that see more eye-to-eye on your views.


DEAN BECKER: To close us out here I want to share with you I sent a copy of my new book, “To End the War On Drugs: A Guide for Politicians, the Press and Public” to both candidates for district attorney for Harris County, Houston. They both have indicated that it swaying their opinion as well as our US Attorney General Eric Holder.

I urge you to get a copy on Kindle or Amazon. Locally at River Oaks or Brazos Books.

As always, there is no legitimacy to this drug war.

Prohibido istac evilesco!


Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org