The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘MLB’

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

With MLB’s announcement yesterday of thirteen player suspensions, once again the issue of illegal drug usage is on our radar screen.  It’s not quite three weeks since Cory Monteith died of a self-inflicted heroin overdose.  How many others lacking his high profile have died as a result of drug abuse in that same period is unknown as their deaths don’t make the news.

Obviously the PED’s that apparently enjoy widespread usage among professional athletes don’t, as far as we know, have the same potential for killing their users.  But as long as they are illegal and the powers that be within baseball wield their considerable authority to censure offenders, they do have a negative effect.  They destroy the dreams of millions of kids who look to these athletes as their idols.

It’s interesting to note that, if we continue to regulate which drugs are legal and which are not – in my view an unwise position – that MLB has taken a far more effective approach to dealing with the problem than does our Federal government under the aegis of the DEA.  MLB attacked the problem at the consumption level – while the DEA attacks the problem at the production level.

Whether or not you accept my argument that all drugs should be de-criminalized and made available through regulated dispensaries, I believe we can all agree that there is one reason that people manufacture drugs.  There is a lot of money in it.

Why do people use them?  That is probably a far more complex problem.  Why would a thirty-one year old such as Monteith with an established career and a bright future risk that all for a fix?  But finding the reason that he or any other drug user engages in his habit is less important than acknowledging that they do.

We found with Prohibition that we cannot eliminate the source (alcohol) simply because we have made it illegal.  And we found that despite its illegality, people who wanted a drink found ways to fulfill their desires.  Why we do not apply what we should have learned from that lesson to cocaine or heroin or marijuana or any other mind-altering drug is confusing.

We love reading stories about the fact that the latest cartel “El Jefe” has been apprehended – as though that will make any difference at all.  Returning to my original thesis that where there is a lot of money involved, there will always be someone willing, if not anxious to step in and replace a fallen “leader”.  In fact, many of these former leaders were sent to an early retirement at the hands of their successors.

Pouring money into the sinkhole of trying to eliminate the production of illegal drugs at its source is about as fruitful as trying to empty the Pacific Ocean by using a ladle.  After years of conducting the losing “War On Drugs” we should have by now realized that.

The CDC reported that in 2010 there were 37,792 deaths attributable to illegal drug abuse.  That compares to 25,440 deaths that were attributable to mis-use of alcohol.  Alcohol has been regulated for nearly a century and I suspect has far wider usage than illegal drugs.  I would be willing to bet that the number of people who at least occasionally enjoy a hard drink or a beer is five hundred times the number of people who shoot heroin or snort cocaine.

Perhaps that multiplier of five hundred that I pulled out of thin air is far too high.  Let’s adjust it down to something that may seem more reasonable to you – ten.  But even at that ridiculously low level – it would suggest that we should be seeing well over one quarter million annual deaths due to demon rum.  The government’s own statistics say that assumption is false.

Why then do we resist the libertarian concept of decriminalizing drug usage?  There are a number of answers to that question.

First, we believe that drug usage leads to drug dependency which leads to ruined lives.  That is probably an argument with which I would agree.  But isn’t that what happens now?  And the fact that these drugs can only be obtained from criminals exposes the user to additional danger than he or she would experience by purchasing these same drugs from a dispensary.

Second, we are protecting our children from becoming drug abusers.  That is a laudable goal but is patently untrue.  A pusher doesn’t care if you’re at death’s door or twelve years old – as long as you have the money to buy your fix.  A dispensary would be able to weed out those who have not attained a majority (and the presumed ability to make an intelligent decision regarding whether they wanted to purchase a drug).  And the sad truth is that a lot of our kids are getting their first highs by raiding their parents’ stash of pain killers (which are, of course, legally prescribed drugs).

Third, drugs are “de facto” bad.  We should not give the perception of endorsing them by legalizing them.  That is simply a value judgment.  However, as in the case of alcohol, not everyone shares that opinion.  Does a person have the right to impose his values on everyone else?  If so, you must be enamored with the present administration.

The benefits of decriminalizing drugs are also several.

First, the street value of the commodity would fall in price.  This might be the most effective way of actually putting the cartels out of business.  Furthermore, by regulating the distribution through dispensaries we could tax the product and test it for “safety”.  Many of those who die from drug overdoses are people who purchased “tainted” products.

Second, the gangs that are now the distributors for drugs and who are responsible for multiple murders every year, would also be put out of business.  Of the 31,500 plus murders that were the result of gunshots in 2010, well over half of those were believed to be related to drug transactions and rivalries between two gangs of drug pushers.

Third, we would be able to identify current drug users and develop rehabilitation programs to assist these users which they would have to attend in order to continue receiving their ongoing distributions.  Those drug users seldom receive any sort of assistance under our present arrangement.

Those MLB players who received suspensions yesterday were taking those substances in order to improve their value as a negotiable commodity.  Once again, money is at the core of their actions.  We would be naïve to believe that when players are already making multi-millions of dollars a year that they will not be able to get access to any sorts of drugs they want – PED’s or otherwise.

It’s really long past time that we had a mature debate on our drug policies.  For myself, I hope that I never feel so low that I contemplate turning to them for comfort.

If we look at those baseball players and other pro athletes who have turned to drugs to enhance their performance, we should honestly ask ourselves one question.  In our demand as consumer/spectators for more thrilling games and better performances, aren’t we fans really the pushers?

HARRUMPH, PAHRUMP

About a 55 mile drive from my home and close to the CA/NV state line there is a quaint town of about 37,000 residents called Pahrump, NV.  It’s in Nye County, one of those in the State of Nevada in which prostitution is legal.  And wouldn’t you know, there are those who recognized there would be a demand for those practicing the world’s oldest profession and so four brothels located in the vicinity of the town (although outside the town limits).  Perhaps the best known of these is the Chicken Ranch which is located on a 40 acre parcel of land.

Many years ago when the movie, “Never On Sunday” starring the late Greek actress, Melina Mercouri was released, my parents debated whether I should be allowed to go see it.  I was 13 years old at the time.  Of course, this was before we had established ratings boards to tell parents to which movies they could and which movies they could not take their children.  We had to rely on something that was called responsible parenting – but it seemed, for the most part to work pretty well.

Of course, the subject of that movie was prostitution which was legal throughout Greece where the movie was set.  As it turned out, I was not permitted to see the movie and did not until about 10 years later.  (Although I was allowed to listen to the title music which had been composed by Manos Hadjidakis and which was played frequently on the pop radio stations).  I guess you could call my parents a bit over-protective – or maybe the word for which I’m looking is caring.

Well, imagine my surprise – coming as I do from this protected form of upbringing – when a friend of mine from the dog park, C. F. told me that as he was listening to the L. A. Dodgers game yesterday on radio, he heard several ads for the Chicken Ranch being broadcast during the game.  They included interviews with several of the Ranch’s prostitutes who urged the listening audience to come on down for the BBQ they were hosting and promised everyone a “good time.”  (Free limo service was available from L. A.).

One of the last baseball games I attended was a Dodgers game.  But that was when they were in Brooklyn.  I remember sitting in the bleachers with Dad and because we had none of the high tech super surround stereo that now exists, most of us carried small transistor radios with us so that we could listen to the commentary as the game was played.  I can only imagine the look on my Dad’s face if during the game an ad for the Chicken Ranch were broadcast.  “So, Daddy – what’s a Chicken Ranch?  Is it like a petting zoo?”  Actually, I guess you could characterize it that way – if you had a slightly warped frame of mind.

As a kid, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snyder were among my heroes.  That was when we played and watched the sport for the love of the game and not in pursuit of the money – because the star players of that time, they and Jackie Robinson to name only a few, made virtually nothing.  But they gave us something more than just the thrill of watching them hit a homer.

They set standards of excellence both in the game and personally to which we could aspire.  They truly were heroes and deserved to be our role models.  And in those days, owning a baseball team was a financially losing proposition.  But the owners covered the annual deficits because of their love of the game.

Today it’s different.  There is little love of the sport but a lot of love of the money that it generates.  And I guess the owners don’t much care what the source of that revenue is.  In the old days, about the only piece of team paraphernalia that was available for purchase was  a baseball cap.  That was how a loyal fan showed his devotion to the team.  And, of course, there was also a team pennant which we could buy and proudly display in our room – a reminder of the game that we loved and the players we esteemed.

So I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that the L. A. Dodgers are willing to accept ads from places like the Chicken Ranch Brothel.  The game has transmuted from the American pass time into its present let’s make all the money we can format.

When you boil it all down, it’s merely a matter of prostitution – in one form or another.

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