I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
I temporarily reopened Middle Earth Journal when Newshoggers shut it's doors but I was invited to Participate at The Moderate Voice so Middle Earth Journal is once again in hiatus.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The other outrageous war - The Battle of the Bong

A few months ago I wrote about the other outrageous war:
While the war in Iraq may outrageous there is another war that is equally outrageous and is truly bi-partisan, the war on drugs. Like the war in Iraq it has accomplished nothing positive, consumed vast sums of the nations wealth and ruined lives. The reasons for the war on drugs are similar to the reasons for the war in Iraq.

  • Political Power

  • Corporate Wealth and Power

  • Religious Zealotry
The first post concentrated on the war against marijuana. The post today is about a cruel and absurd skirmish in the war on marijuana, the battle of the bong. James Bovard explains in The Most Absurdities per Kilo
On February 7, 2003, as the U.S. government prepared to invade Iraq, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge raised the terrorist alert to the orange level and declared that “specific protective measures will be taken by all federal agencies to reduce vulnerabilities.” Ridge added comfortingly, “It’s probably not a bad idea to sit down and just arrange some kind of a contact plan, [so] that if [a terrorist] event occurred ... the family [could] get in touch with one another.” Attorney General John Ashcroft, bombasting at the same press conference, urged Americans to go about “with a heightened awareness of their environment and the activities [i.e., potential terrorist attacks] occurring around them.”

Seventeen days later, on February 24, Ashcroft proudly announced the most decisive attack ever on purveyors of bongs – pipes and bowls often used for smoking marijuana, tobacco, and whatever else a person chooses. At a time when political leaders warned that a terrorist attack on the homeland could be imminent, more than 1,200 federal law officers were involved in Operation Pipe Dreams, conducting raids in Pennsylvania, Texas, Oregon, Iowa, California, and Idaho. Fifty-five people and 10 companies were indicted in the biggest attack on glass bowls in American history.

The feds confiscated 124 tons of what was alleged to be drug paraphernalia, including plastic baggies that could be used to package illicit drugs. One wonders how many federal employees or federal contractors were involved in weighing the baggies – one of the favorite examples of how the raids protected American families across the land.

At the triumphal press conference announcing the raids, Ashcroft declared, “With the advent of the Internet, the illegal-drug paraphernalia industry has exploded. Quite simply, the illegal-drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge.”
I'm sure you will sleep better tonight knowing you aren't threatened by bongs. One person who didn't sleep better was 64 year old Tommy Chong.
By far the biggest catch of Operation Pipe Dreams was 64-year-old Tommy Chong, the older half of the legendary, Grammy Award-winning comic duo Cheech and Chong, who lampooned drug warriors from the 1960s to the 1980s. Chong’s company, Chong Glass, sold ornate bongs that cost hundreds of dollars over the Internet; a Los Angeles art gallery had an exhibit of Chong’s top-of-the-line products. The Drug Enforcement Administration set up a phony shop in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and ordered bongs and other material from Chong Glass.

The DEA hit Chong’s Pacific Palisades, California, house at 5:30 a.m., while Chong and his wife were asleep. Chong later commented,
It was a full-on raid. Helicopters, them bangin’ on the door. They come in with loaded automatic weapons, flak jackets, helmets, visors, about 20 agents. They bust in the house. They took all my cash, took out my computers, and they took all the glass bongs they could find.
I don't know about you but I sure am glad the Feds are using out tax dollars to keep us safe from blown glass. It would be amusing except that Chong was imprisoned and ruined financially.
Chong was sentenced to nine months in federal prison, fined $20,000 for selling bongs and other drug paraphernalia, and forced to surrender $103,514 in cash to the feds, as well as forfeit his Internet domain name, Chongglass.com. He was also forced to promise the judge that he would not profit from his arrest and prosecution. This effectively destroyed Chong’s freedom of speech to discuss his case in future comedy performances. At least in Chong’s case, mocking the feds will now be a federal offense.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be Nice