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Ch. 5 - West of Eden 
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Post Ch. 5 - West of Eden
Ch. 5 - West of Eden


Please use this thread to discuss Chapter 5 - West of Eden. You're also free to create and use your own threads. ::44




Wed Mar 29, 2006 12:52 am
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - West of Eden
A decent introduction by Harris in this chapter. A lot of really scary quotes, actions, and public belief systems of religiously influenced politians is documented. I find it odd that Harris focused exclusively on republican politicians... but then again, Democrats tend to be bigger supporters of the seperation issue and not as public about their faith (aside: I recall a Time Magazine article during the last presidential election detailing how Kerry Campaign was trying to appear more religious to dispell the myth that he was not, interesting). But fact remains that Bush is consistantly pulling in Christian Conservatives/Fundamentalists and other folks of strong religious views for building his administration. That in and of itself is not an issue to me. What is an issue are the comments that those elected officials and appointed officials make regarding how they view religion in their role of government.

It seems a great many politicians take the lead from the Good Book or what preachers have to say. We know this, but a closer look at the ramifications are interesting. The "seperation" can still be there, but decisions on the direction of the country are still being made based on a fictional book and certain people's opinions on how the world and humans were created that violates every principle of science. I was concerned prior to reading this chapter's introduction, but when Harris brings forth all these high level position quotes together, it paints a frightening picture of why certain decisions are being made. I am more concerned with "why" decisions are being made rather than "what" the decisions actually are, because what they are will become inherent once you understand the "why."

Pretty frightening when you look at the implications of what some of our politicians' belief systems actually are.::70




Fri Apr 07, 2006 2:15 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - West of Eden
Chapter 5 continues with a slam dunk against "victimless crimes" which acts were primarily criminalized due to religious activists and views regarding sin and what not. Harris delivers blow after blow about why actions done in the privacy of one's own home that do not harm any one have no business being criminalized by a government holding strong to it's puritan past.

I have pretty strong opinions on the subject having received a college education with one of my majors being Criminal Justice. I am fold of saying my CJS education molded me into a very harsh critic of the system. Victimless crimes most especially.

Harris walks a slippery slope when discussing the drug war though. Harris never acknowledges the difference between the soft recreational drugs and the hard addictive drugs that severely compromise a human's ability to function after a few uses let alone many. The highlighting of why alcohol is legal when pot is not is one of my favorite critiques of the drug war system, who dies smoking pot whereas every day hundreds, if not thousands, die in this country alone due to alcohol. Further, Harris also cites the economic implications that everything is done under the radar and tax free, and causes crime due to the illegal implications of a black market illegal trade.

I really wish Harris would have not lumped all drugs together into the drug war, however. Certain hard drugs do absolutely no good for the human race and cost society (and tax payers) a lot of money, resources, time, and productivity (not to mention a complete lack of happiness, drive, or anything resembling human will from its user). I would be impressed with any one that could argue for a legal use of Heroin for example (aside from use in hospital as a pain killer, but we have other clearner meds for that). The points about the drug war are on point, but there IS a moral high ground to be taken on the harder drugs that ruin human lives and human dignity in the long run. In that sense, the government does have a responsibility to protect people from harmful substances. But, by that measure, alcohol is a harmful substance, no? But at the least, alcohol used in moderation and with some brains is not harmful. Neither is smoking a joint once a week at home (coming from someone who has never used an illegal drug, btw).

Sexual Acts are also covered in this chapter. How any state can have sodomy laws still on the book is beyond me. ::73




Fri Apr 07, 2006 3:05 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - West of Eden
This was the best chapter of the book thus far. I agreed with almost everything Harris said, and he wasn't as over-the-top as he was in previous chapters. However, as someone who follows current events pretty closely, I'd seen most of it before.

I had a couple of issues in the way Harris blames the nation's right-wing social policies on religion exclusively. Some religious Christians are liberals who oppose the conservative stance on the Drug War, homosexuality, stem-cell research, etc. Also, some Americans hold conservative beliefs for reasons besides religion.

If you'd like to learn more about US drug policy, read Dan Baum's excellent book Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure. Even for drugs like heroin without redeeming value, there's a strong argument that harsh criminal sanctions are counterproductive and increase human misery.




Sat Apr 15, 2006 7:20 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - West of Eden
I found this chapter to be very interesting. I have always stayed away from drugs and only recently began drinking alcohol. Harris' idea that psychotropic drugs have been made illegal for their likeness to religious/spiritual bliss is something I had never thought of. After reading the chapter, I felt that he'd made a good arguement for the legalization of recreational drugs. I'd be interested in finding out the opinions of BookTalkers on the issue of the legalization of drugs. I agree with rivercoil in that it would have been better if Harris had specified which drugs should be legal. Let's start with marijuana. Do you think it should be legal? If so, is it because of the issues Harris points out or for other reasons? If not, why not?




Sun May 07, 2006 1:23 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - West of Eden
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Let's start with marijuana. Do you think it should be legal? If so, is it because of the issues Harris points out or for other reasons? If not, why not?

While I am certainly no expert nor have I conducted detailed studies into the drug, from what I understand marijuana is less addictive and physically dangerous than other legalized products such as alcohol and tobacco. Add to that the fact that alcohol is legal despite the amount of accidental deaths and injuries where alcohol is involved may not suggest that marijuana should be legal, but rather why are other controlled substances legal? The answer to that question should point the debate of legalizing marijuana in the right direction. ::80 I would suspect everyone on this community could list at least one person that has died prematurely due to alcohol or tobacco. I know of no one that has died due to marijuana.

While Harris does make some good historical arguements, we must not focus on the history of the drug issue but on the present situation. Let us talk money. How much tax money is spent on marijuana cases? From police enforcement to lawyers to court cases to incarceration (especially incarceration), our tax dollars are being burned for pointless enforcement. How much revenue would the country earn if the drug was legalized and taxed just like alcohol and nicotine? Add to that the sum of money saved from not putting money into the Criminal Justice System for this phoney baloney witch hunt against a drug more than 90% of Americans have tried! You can also add in less crime since there will not be a profitable black market under a legal structure.

Okay, let us go back to the historical arguements. Phoney balony. Now let's hear from science! The problem is the science can't be funded or conducted due to the illegal status of the drug. And our government has a vested interest in preventing that science because the entire war on drugs could become jeopordized if findings were released that marijuana isn't harmful, or at least no more than alcohol. Which then in turn would make people ask the question why is alcohol legal, further causing the government some headaches.

As per usual, my disclaimer that despite my support for legalization, I have never used an illegal drug in my life. And no, that is not a tongue in cheek statement indicating the opposite is true, but the reality.




Sun May 07, 2006 2:50 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - West of Eden
riverc0il: Let us talk money. How much tax money is spent on marijuana cases? From police enforcement to lawyers to court cases to incarceration (especially incarceration), our tax dollars are being burned for pointless enforcement.

I suspect that drug enforcement brings in enough money in seizures and forfeiture to offset the loss of tax money. Call me callous or cynical, but I'd even go so far as to suggest that the government wouldn't have stuck with its war on drugs if there weren't some financial and political gain to be made from it.

Even if it turns out that the government itself makes no money off of the war on drugs, there are the other usual suspects to take into account. I presume that everyone here is aware the various pharmeceutical and tobacco companies have powerful political lobbyists that sometimes effect governmental policy, right? I wonder what effect the use of marijuana has on the sales of cigarettes and pain medication. Couldn't be good for business.

I doubt that there would be serious social damage if marijuana were legalized -- at least, nothing exceeding the damage done by alcohol. That said, there are drugs that are dangerous in various ways, and probably should be restricted in as much as the government has an obligation to restrict anything harmful to people. I've known people with serious long term psychological disorders due to LSD use, and I was indirectly acquainted with someone who accidentally killed themself during a bad acid trip. As far as I can tell, marijuana is the exception among illegal recreational drugs, rather than the norm.




Mon May 08, 2006 6:11 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - West of Eden
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Even if it turns out that the government itself makes no money off of the war on drugs, there are the other usual suspects to take into account. I presume that everyone here is aware the various pharmeceutical and tobacco companies have powerful political lobbyists that sometimes effect governmental policy, right? I wonder what effect the use of marijuana has on the sales of cigarettes and pain medication. Couldn't be good for business.

Somewhere recently, someone (perhaps in another forum) made the point that pharmeceutical companies wouldn't make a dime off a drug people could grow on their window sill. Obviously, there is no one in Washington from powerful companies lobeying for legalization, it definitely would negatively effect profits from cigarette, likker, and pharmeceutical companies.

Interesting suspicion that the government could make money off the war on drugs or at least break even. I suspect this suspicion is incorrect based on the amount of criminal justice involvement in small time cases. Big busts are rare and likely usually involving the harder drugs. Speaking strictly in regards to marijauna, I suspect it would be a hard case to make that the amount of misdemeanors and minor felonies could be off set by small time drug dealers being busted. The big guys probably wouldn't deal exclusively in marijuana and the bigger busts would be where any income would occur.

I completely agree that marijauna is the exception rather than the norm. I would not favor legalization for hard drugs that result in ruining people's lives, increased risk of suicide and dependance on society, and increased use of tax payer monies for rehab and criminal aspects of stealing to pay for a fix.

Working in retail, I have known several instances of people stealing to pay for a drug dependance. I have sat in a court room and given statements to policy regarding theft. These people were not stealing for marijuana, I can tell you that much.




Tue May 09, 2006 4:40 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 5 - West of Eden
riverc0il: Somewhere recently, someone (perhaps in another forum) made the point that pharmeceutical companies wouldn't make a dime off a drug people could grow on their window sill.

Someone would still make money off of it -- how many of you grow your own basil? -- but not as much as the pharms make off of patented synthetics.

I suspect this suspicion is incorrect based on the amount of criminal justice involvement in small time cases.

As I understand it, the methodology is to turn these small busts into opportunities to make larger busts. Small time operators are offered lessened sentences for providing intel on the larger segments of the food chain. Even when that's not the case, small time operators can still make a lot of money over time, which can then be converted into liquid assets for the DEA.

Big busts are rare and likely usually involving the harder drugs.

Of that, I'm not so sure. I recall at least two major busts in my home county, which is home to no more than 10,000 people. Both busts were marijuana busts totalling more than $10 million each. Recently meth has been a bigger problem, though, and I'm not sure what the revenue from a meth lab would amount to.

I think you also have to look at the amount of revenue that is saved rather than generated by such busts. If the drug trade is a contributing factor in other forms of crime, then halting drug trade saves money elsewhere. If, for instance, a drug bust also turns up a significant amount of arms, then the government saves money by keeping those guns off the street and putting law enforcement in less danger in the future.

And there's probably also a political aspect to the whole thing. A large number of hard drugs are trafficked into the country from other countries. Controlling the amount of American goods and money that flows into those countries is a form of political and economic control over the development of places like Columbia.




Wed May 10, 2006 1:31 pm
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