November 4, 2007

Passerby were amazed at the unusually large amounts of blood

Whew. That's the last time I write a post about a certain Doctor-Congressman... I'm just going to go out on a limb and assume that our commenting-assailants were for the most part not University of Chicago students, nor were they regular readers of the site.But enough about yesterday. Today's a new day. And quite a day at that--Fred Thompson's campaign has finally done enough to warrant its first scandal. Congratulations guys! It also doubles as the first drug-related controversy of the campaign season (Obama's ravaging coke addiction will likely have to wait for the general election, if he's there), leaving Thompson only a sex tape, a prior arrest, and a racial slur away from the campaign cycle. There's still plenty of time time left.From the Washington Post story:

Thompson selected the businessman, Philip Martin, to raise seed money for his White House bid. Martin is one of four campaign co-chairmen and the head of a group called the "first day founders."...Martin entered a plea of guilty to the sale of 11 pounds of marijuana in 1979; the court withheld judgment pending completion of his probation. He was charged in 1983 with violating his probation and with multiple counts of felony bookmaking, cocaine trafficking and conspiracy. He pleaded no contest to the cocaine-trafficking and conspiracy charges, which stemmed from a plan to sell $30,000 worth of the drug, and was continued on probation.
Eleven pounds of marijuana. Perhaps this explains why Senator Thompson is so lethargic in his campaigning--Why he's so tired all the time and why he tends to forget seemingly important details, like who killed Terri Schiavo.It was the latter part of the story that I found most significant, though. He was charged with attempting to sell $30,000 worth of cocaine. Just how much is $30,000 worth of Coke? I did a little bit of math, and if you assume that an ounce will go for around $700, than $30,000 is roughly 42 ounces of coke or more than 2.6 lbs. Note that I'm assuming he'd sell it to dealers in smaller quantities and as a result there could be a small fluctuation in price depending on the quantity and the market (a kilo of heroin, for example, goes for about 1000-times more money in Manhattan than in Peshawar, Pakistan).So, essentially, he was attempting to traffick 2.6 pounds of coke. I thought this was significant in light of the new debate (in congress and the Supreme Court) over federal sentencing guidelines. As you see now, selling a full 2.6 pounds of coke gets you inside access to a moderately successful actor, but selling 2.6 pounds of crack--of which the difference is negligible--would be prosecuted at 100-times the severity. It would essentially be the same as selling 260 pounds of coke, which is a lot. All of this would only be irrational and perplexing, if it wasn't so debilitating to a large chunk of the population, clogging the prisons due to mandatory minimums and tarnishing the justice system with the disproportionate prosecution of blacks (55% of crack users are white, but 82% of crack prosecutions are black).It's a horrible standard, and although the U.S. Sentencing Commission has just lowered guidelines (and asked congress to do the same), there is still a significant gap--anything less than a 1-to-1 ratio is a blight to the justice system. It'll be interesting to see if anyone presses Fred Thompson on this issue, now that we know he has indirectly benefitted from the laws.In the meantime, at least we're not Singapore.