Drugs May or May Not Make You Stupid, But They Certainly Make Governments Stupid

Charles P. Pierce
·6-min read
Photo credit: Boston Globe                - Getty Images
Photo credit: Boston Globe - Getty Images

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To The Last Post Of The Week From The Blog’s Favourite Living Canadian)

The Commonwealth (God save it!) can’t get out of its own way when it comes to cleaning up a massive breakdown in the state’s crime labs. By the end of this week, the district attorneys in both Suffolk and Middlesex Counties were deciding whether or not to vacate thousands of drug convictions because of a state drug laboratory in which thumbs, elbows, and both feet were allegedly put on the scale while evaluating evidence. From the Boston Globe:

The latest developments by two leading district attorneys adds fuel to the still burning embers of what was already the largest drug lab scandal in US history. And the effects could be far-reaching, impacting current and long-settled cases, and potentially setting the stage for a complex legal showdown between the state’s top court and the nine other district attorneys.

“This is totally unprecedented — I’ve never heard anything of this scale,” said Nathan H. Lents, a biology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “It’s a nightmare scenario for the criminal justice system in Massachusetts. There’s no other way to say it.” Citing the state’s “abject failure to adequately and appropriately manage a forensic agency,” Rollins said in a court filing earlier this week that she intends to void Suffolk criminal convictions tied to nearly 75,000 drug tests performed at Hinton between 2003 and 2012. Just days later, Ryan described to the Globe a measure that, if successful, could increase that number nearly five-fold. She plans to ask the state’s top court to review a controversial 2014 state investigation into the lab and determine whether a “bulk dismissal” of cases is warranted.

It’s hard not to connect this to the great job Rachel Maddow did Wednesday night pointing out that Senator John Cornyn’s opposition to Vanita Gupta’s nomination to the No. 3 post at the Department of Justice has a great deal to do with how she cleaned up a monumental case of drug-war railroading in the small town of Tulia, Texas. Cornyn, who was the state’s attorney general at the time, named the corrupt narc who’d sent hundreds of innocent people to jail on drug crimes his police officer of the year. Now, in Massachusetts, we see another aspect of the “war” on drugs, in which conviction rates outweighed civil liberties, or even logic.

The ripples of the scandal have reverberated through the state’s criminal justice system since 2012, when then-chemist Annie Dookhan admitted to investigators that she’d failed to fully analyze drug samples. A 2014 investigation into Hinton by state Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha turned up widespread issues at the facility, ranging from chronic managerial negligence to inadequate training and a lack of professional standards — though it determined that Dookhan was the lab’s “sole bad actor.” She pleaded guilty in 2013 to misleading investigators, filing false reports, and tampering with evidence, and served less than three years behind bars. Another chemist, Sonja Farak, pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing drugs to feed her addiction while working at the state’s Amherst lab and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

The whole thing was madness from start to finish. And its repercussions are with us to this day, even as New York’s legislature decides to legalize recreational marijuana. Drugs may not necessarily make you stupid, but they make governments incredibly stupid.

A bunch of Republican senators went to the southern border on Friday to stand around like a Lands End photo shoot and tell lies about the “crisis” from the “surge” of migrants. Neither of those things were real but, when you’ve got sharp new down vests, you have to strut your stuff in front of impoverished refugees on the run from unrelieved violence and bloodshed. Naturally, Ted Cruz dropped a video in which he seems to be auditioning for the next season of Swamp People.

“It's past midnight and I'm standing on the shore of the Rio Grande, the water is right behind me down. I'm down on the Texas border along with 18 senators, we made the trip to see the crisis that is playing out.”

The visiting Republicans also claim to have been “heckled” by smugglers in the employ of the drug cartels, drug smugglers being noted the world over for their skills at bench-jockeying. These guys, boy, I dunno.

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “I’ve Got A Mind To Ramble” (Alberta Hunter): Yeah, I pretty much still love New Orleans.

Weekly Visit To The Pathe Archives: From 1928, here’s the first piece of the great Singapore dock being towed through the Suez Canal. You will note that they manage to get this huge thing through without running it aground. Them was the days. I’m sorry, but this story is obsessing me. History is so cool.

Major League Baseball has scheduled its All Star festivities for Atlanta this July. It’s bad enough that they’re still using that stupid tomahawk logo but, given the events of the past week, perhaps its time for MLB to consider moving the event to a state that actually believes in representative democracy. Or to Toronto. The heat already is on.

Is it a good day for dinosaur news, Independent? It’s always a good day for dinosaur news!!!

In the time of the dinosaurs - more than 60 million years ago - crocodiles were much more varied, and the fossil record details how evolution “experimented” with dolphin-like adaptations to living in seas, while others lived on land as fast-moving plant eaters.Researchers led by scientists at the University of Bristol examined over 200 skulls and jaws from the known fossil record of crocodiles and their extinct relatives, exploring how shape variation reveals differences between species, and how quickly the crocodiles changed over time.

The researchers said the study revealed how some of the extinct crocodile groups, including the dolphin-like thalattosuchians and the smaller land-dwelling notosuchians, evolved very fast over many millions of years.

I’m not sure I grasp the concept of a crocodile that swims like a dolphin, leaping out of the water and all that, but, if it’s a vegetarian, I guess I could have lived with that. Alas, they died out, but they lived then to make us happy now.

I’ll be back on Monday as we continue to live under the rule of Joe Manchin, Prince Regent of All the Coal Bins. Be well and play nice, ya bastids. Stay above the snake-line, wear the damn mask, and take the damn shots.

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