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Free Tommy Chong

In a press conference yesterday, I heard President Bush proclaim (and he is likely correct) that the increased propensity of terrorist factions within Iraq to perpetrate ever more vicious attacks on ever softer targets is evidence that, like a wounded and dying beast, they are lashing out in their death throws. My words, not his.

We are seeing similar behavior from terrorist factions within the United States government – those promoting and carrying out the Evil War on Drugs. With both their mantra and their life’s work coming increasingly under question, and unable to strike any significant blow against their enemy’s core, they have turned their attentions more and more towards its soft periphery, and proceed to attack it in an increasingly vicious manner.

The most glaring example of this is the Justice department’s ‘Operation Pipe Dreams’, and its selectively harsh enforcement against actor and comedian Tommy Chong. Now politically, I am no particular fan of Chong’s. He hypocritically presents himself as a “reformed drug addict,” who professes abstinence, rather than speaking out for the rights of all adults to engage in any risky behavior they choose, so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. However, Operation Pipe Dreams is unjustified on any basis. And it is massively heavy-handed slap against Chong – almost $123,000 in fines and forfeitures, as well as a 9 month prison sentence, is absolutely unconscionable. The average conviction under this operation has yielded sentences of community service.

And what felonious act did Mr. Chong perpetrate to deserve this harsh sentence? He operated a small, discrete company called Nice Dreams Enterprises (d.b.a. Chong Glass) which engaged in the manufacture of blown glass devices for smoking organic materials – ‘bongs’. But, you say, he’s clearly enabling marijuana use. Not so. As with the absurd prohibitions of ‘assault weapons’, the Justice Dept. is basing its case upon differences which are primarily cosmetic, not functional. A wad of ganja can be smoked just as well, if not better, through a hookah, which can be purchased legally at any south Asian imports store, as through one of Mr. Chong’s blown glass creations.

Besides furthering his evangelical mission to enforce his conception of purity on all our souls, Attorney General Ashcroft, no doubt, thinks this will create a perception with the populace that a tough new stand is being taken, and victory is just around the corner. It will more likely serve only to further the public’s disgust.

Many organizations are forming to voice opposition to this egregious action. One is FreeTommyChong.org. I would encourage all US Samizdata readers to lend their support.

27 comments to Free Tommy Chong

  • Charles Copeland

    Kevin L. Connors argues that terrorists in Iraq “like a wounded and dying beast [...] are lashing out in their death throws.

    If terrorists in their death throes continue to ‘lash out’ as they are doing at present, I think I would prefer dealing with terrorists who are ‘alive and kicking’.

    Kevin, you’re whistling in the dark. If you are intellectually honest, check out this site.

  • Guy Herbert

    I’m not convinced this is a selectively vicious attack on Chong. US drugs policy (imposed worldwide through the UN Narcotics Treaty and associated bullying–though thankfully in attenuated form in some places) is unselectively vicious. Witness the treatment of Robert Downey Jr, another celebrity victim, and never a propagandist for the dubious charms of his chosen poison.

    As for those not rich and famous enough to be assured of good defence and fair treatment…

  • Of course, Charles. If today’s daily terrorism is the work of a tired faction on the run, we want to see the real thing. That makes a lot of sense.

    And a site called antiwar.com is undoubtedly a reliable source of unbiased information. Like any other web site, magazine or organization that explicitly calls itself ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ something. Obvious choices for balanced information.

  • Dale Amon

    Technique One: Take a cardboard tube from a toilet paper roll. Cut or tear a oneinch roundish hole in the side near one end. Take some Aluminum foil and put if over the hole, making a dimple into the tube. Make numerous holes with a pin.

    Technique Two: ‘The Quaker’. Take one of the round cardboard containers from Quaker Oats or similar. Punch a half inch or smaller hole in the bottom of the container near one side. On the opposite side near the former top end where the top was removed, punch a hole and add aluminum foil with pin holes as in previous method. Then take a small plastic bag and tape it to the wide open top end so that it is air tight. Push the bag entirely inside. After lighting a fire, slowly pull the bag outwards while blocking the hole in the bottom. Place mouth around bottom hole and slowly push the plastic bag back into the container…

    Do they think college kids today need mail order houses any more than they did in any previous decade?

  • Dale Amon

    Clarification: In #1 the foil also entirely covers the one end of the tube as well as being dimpled into the top.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Dale, just take a used soda can, use your thumb to dimple it on the side near the sealed end, use your pocket knife or ballpoint pen to poke a few holes in the dimple, put a bud in the dimple, suck on the popped top and light. Nothiing simpler.

    It is hard to beat a Graphix, though.

  • I agree with Guy Herbert that the Feds are not being selectively vicious towards Tommy Chong, because they’re generally vicious to everyone.

    However, they are also selectively non-vicious, as can be seen in the non-trial and non-conviction of noted drug addicts Rush Limbaugh and Noelle Bush.

  • Charles Copeland

    Sylvain sarcastically comments on the site I recommended:

    …a site called antiwar.com is undoubtedly a reliable source of unbiased information. Like any other web site, magazine or organization that explicitly calls itself ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ something. Obvious choices for balanced information.

    It is true that the site hardly contains ‘balanced information’ as such — in my own experience, some of the contributions are quite obviously partisan. But that’s true of more or less every goddam site. Antiwar.com, though, is an essential read if you want to learn what the other side thinks.

    I’ve read a couple of hundred of op-eds etc. pro and contra the war, and I still can’t make up my mind — though in retrospect I think the isolationist side was probably right when they argued that the invasion would end in tears. Now they’re saying: we told you so. Didn’t they tell us so?

    The Iraq story is a complicated issue, Sylvain. There are intelligent arguments on both sides, just as there are dumb ones also.

    Do you really listen to your own side only? Do you never think that you just might be mistaken? Are you AFRAID that listening to an adversary might lure you away from the faith?

    How I envy you, a true believer!

  • “He hypocritically presents himself as a “reformed drug addict,” who professes abstinence, rather than speaking out for the rights of all adults to engage in any risky behavior they choose, so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.”

    I don’t blame him for saying whatever he wants o try to avoid doing time, it’s his life and he doesn’t owe any of it to you or me to make a point.

  • “another celebrity victim, and never a propagandist for the dubious charms of his chosen poison.”

    That’s selective for different reasons, celebrities like Downey can be trophies for ambitious prosecutors and cops.

  • Kevin L. Connors

    I don’t believe there exists such a thing a single ‘fari and balanced’ news source. This is why anyone with concern for such matters needs to keep up on a number of sources. I’m curious though, if the majority of Samizdata readers don’t think I get enough anti war ‘balance’ as it is from the likes of The NYTimes, The Guardian, The BBC, The McLaughlin Group, and LibertyForum. I also follow a broad array of international news journals of all editorial stripes, not to mention several different blogs.

    I somehow doubt one more website produced by a group of zealots will bring me to any sort of epiphany.

  • triticale

    I never covered the end of a #1, aka steamroller, with foil. If you cover it with the palm of your hand, you can mix air with the smoke to ease inhalation.

  • …thus we are reminded once again that a Libertarian is a Republican who Smokes Dope! :-)

  • Charles, let’s not start with assigning each other “sides”, or assume what those are. I want to see operations in Iraq succeed, but I don’t have any illusions as to the costs and pain involved. The truth is, I am actually surprised things haven’t been worse so far, hence my usually positive outlook.

    antiwar.com, or NGO sites, for instance, will tell me exactly what they’re supposed to, according to their own vested interest. Which is true of everyone, of course, except when people call themselves “anti” or “pro”, they are implicitly choosing to stick to one half of the truth, at best.

    But as we know, they usually tend to present their half as the whole thing, cutting any number of corners in the process, reducing the potential value proposition by an unknown amount. It’s their mission. These are not people who are into moderation or reason; it’s not about agreeing to disagree, people who take these stands see their argument as a absolutist zero-sum game.

    So intead of 40 or 50% of the truth, you get 15 or 20% at best. So prothis.com or antithat.org don’t interest me. The noise to substance ratio is rarely, if ever, worth it. But that’s me.

    I do look at them once in a while, if only to gauge where the fringes are. A rough measure of the volatility or “trading range” of public opinion, if you will. But I won’t “trade” the extremes, that is bet or rely on them.

    Like Kevin, I try to read a broad array of papers. I usually won’t pay for The Guardian but I’ll check the online edition. Same with The New York Times and their French equivalents, such as Le Monde or Liberation. So I am at least familiar with both sides of the argument. I am aware of my strong leaning on one side at a strategic level, like most of us I believe. But I do pay attention to comments and criticism from the other side at the tactical level.

    For what it’s worth…

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    I agree with Kevin. I listen to various international broadcasters on my shortwave radio (well, not this week thanks to the solar storms), and hear more than enough of the anti-war side from the BBC World Service, Radio Nederlands, Radio Canada International, and so on.

    Go back and read my comments from August on the BBC’s sexed-up coverage of the blackout in the USA. The anti-US bias was really quite awful in its crudity.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    …thus we are reminded once again that a Libertarian is a Republican who Smokes Dope!

    I know you’re just joking, David, but for the record I haven’t smoked weed in about 10 years. Thus I have no vested interest in its legalization other than I believe that it is wrong to tell people what they can or cannot put in their bodies.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    Triticale is right. The object is called a “Jefferson Airplane”.

  • Dale Amon

    Now for something really different…

    Yeah, like Airplane were really cool, but, like Starship were just out there, you know?

    All vernacular aside, I’m a major Starship fan. Not just for the name..

    Well, back to our regular ranting, still in progress…

  • Dan

    However, they are also selectively non-vicious, as can be seen in the non-trial and non-conviction of noted drug addicts Rush Limbaugh and Noelle Bush.

    The federal government doesn’t generally prosecute people for using drugs. That’s a local matter. The feds get involved in prosecuting dealers and manufacturers. Chong got busted by the feds because he ran a mail-order business; that’s Federal territory.

    It’s also a bit disingenuous to say “non-trial and non-conviction” with regards to Noelle Bush. She was arrested, and she did go to court, and she was required to complete drug rehabilitation treatment as a condition for not being prosecuted. Regardless of what you may believe, that’s not an out-of-the-ordinary arrangement.

  • M. Simon

    Charles Copeland,

    No thinking going on at antiwar.com. Now if you want to find out what the otherside is feeling it is a fine place to do research.

  • Guy Herbert

    Alfred E Neuman: “Thus I have no vested interest in its legalization…”

    I haven’t even done more than try it. (Can’t really see the attraction.) But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a vested interest in legalisation.

    Putting gangsters and drug squads out of business? That’s a fiscal and an aesthetic benefit to me straight away. Removing the we-must-stop-nasty-drug-smugglers excuse? A definite boost for privacy, security of property (have I gone on about The Proceeds of Crime Act?) and freedom of movement.

  • Guy Herbert

    Perhaps my antiprohibitionist views are tainted by all that self-interest. But I don’t think the moral case is undermined in general.

    I can say that freer drug-use came at increased costs to me (though I can’t see how it would), I’d certainly be prepared to bear some–how much and what, I can’t guess–before I’d throw away the freedom.

  • Alfred E. Neuman

    Guy, you misunderstand me. My point is that I do not want drug legalization for my own benefit (at least not in terms of pot); I want it because it is morally right that people should be able to do as they wish with their own bodies. The results you describe are positive effects, but they are not the underlying philosophical reason. They are merely the natural result of the government staying out of people’s business.

    Which is what we all want. Except Kodiak.

  • Guy Herbert

    I got you the first time Alfred E.. I was trying to make the same point as you (that the moral case and the utilitarian case are different) but to emphasise that heads aren’t the only ones with a vetsed interest in this one, and hence that their views are not really undermined by that fact.

  • Verity

    Alfred E – stop calling up Kodiak! Don’t you realise your thoughts can be propelled by pulses from outer space into his brain? Has anyone else noticed that he seems to don his tinfoil hat a couple of days after the full moon and only doff it, to let the signals through again, about 10 days before the next full moon?

  • Kevin L. Connors

    The internet, of course, is my window on the world. This has been reduced greatly of late, as y recovery has allowed me to be far more active. But, to years ago, I was a virtual shut-in. And, with 9 1/2 to 12 hours out of each day required to get proper rest (I have obstructive sleep apniea), I would literally spend 6 to 8 hours a day at my computer reading (for news stories and the like my reading speed runs from 1200 to 1600 wpm) I’d also spend about four hours or so posting (on the other hand, I can only type about 25 wpm).

    Not only do the international newspapers give you a fresh and unique perspective on stories. When it comes to domestic news, rather than rely upon the wire services for national news, it’s generally far better to get the story from the local papers from wherever the story originates.