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POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Crazy in the USA Police State Tactics Republicans may have discovered the whereabouts of the 51 quorum busters hiding out in Oklahoma by using the federal government’s expanded anti-terrorism powers to track the private plane of former Speaker other representatives who arrived in two buses on Sunday May 11, Laney flew to Ardmore where the group holed up in a Holiday Inn to thwart a vote on congressional redistricting. \(Paul Moreno \(D-El because he was closer to the site than those who left from Austin. The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reported that the Air and Marine Interdiction and Riverside, California, had been used to track Laney’s Piper Cheyenne airplane. The Center falls under the Department of Homeland Security. The AM ICC claims it was contacted by an agent for the Texas Department of Public Safety inquiring about a missing plane. A statement issued by the AMICC says that the agency told the DPS agent to contact the The AMICC does not look for missing airplanes. The DPS, which operated a war room adjacent to Speaker Tom Craddick’s office during the walkout has refused to comment to reporters on the matter. The FAA told the Star-Telegram that they have no record of contact with the DPS over the matter. The Homeland Security Department has asked its inspector general to look into the matter. The Inspector General, Clark Kent Ervin, is a Houston lawyer and Bush loyalist. On Wednesday, May 14, the entire Texas Democratic congressional delegation, with the exception of Ralph Hall \(DGeneral John Ashcroft on the subject. Some democrats believe that the impetus to use the AMICC came from U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay \(R-Sugar fy federal intervention in the walkout because redistricting is a federal issue. The Dem’s letter demanded to know if newspaper accounts were accurate, and who had ordered that the AM ICC be used. “Especially with the ongoing war on terrorism, any diversion of federal law enforcement resources for private political gain is an outrage reminiscent of Watergate:’ read a press release by the congressmen. Laney, who has clearly enjoyed the new found unity evinced by the Democratic caucus, believes the use of federal policing authority could come back to haunt Republicans. He says a house speaker from another state called him to say that if Tom DeLay could do this to Texans, anybody could be next. “I would have saved them a bunch of money if they had just asked me where I was going:’ joked Laney, standing in the Holiday Inn courtyard in Ardmore. He agreed that the surveillance was a little creepy. “The funds don’t bother me as much as the idea that someone was following me all the time.” Nixon Goes to China On May 1, one of the most progressive pieces of legislation this session quietly slipped through the Texas House of Representatives. House Bill 2668 passed without opposition or debate. Yet it represents a sea change in how Texas justice is administered. Under the bill, first-time drug offenders caught with up to a pound or less of marijuana, five or fewer doses of LSD, or a gram or less of most other controlled substances would receive probation rather than a prison sentence. Although several Democrats co-sponsored the measure, the primary force behind the bill was a Republican, Rep. every year as many as 5,000 first-time drug offenders are sent to prison for longstretches where there is little likelihood they will receive any treatment. The end result is hardened convicts instead of recovered addicts. “What we have been doing is not good policy, and it’s not working’ ,’ Allen says. Allen came to the conclusion through personal experience that Texas’ draconian drug laws needed reform. His wife’s three siblings have all struggled with intravenous drug abuse. Allen and his wife at different times took the family members into their small home to try and help. All but one of them has quit using. “Many of these people can be salvaged, if given the opportunity:’ says Allen. For Allen, the opportunity to push the legislation became apparent with the state’s fiscal crisis. The bill is expected to save Texas $30 million this biennium and $50 million in the next one. Allen says Governor Rick Perry has promised him that money for treatment centers to help the drug offenders the new law will place in probation will be found, either through federal funds or in the budget conference committee. As originally filed, Allen’s bill would have made these first-time drug offenses a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony. The ACLU, which has vigorously pushed the legislation, believes that the felony charge wrongfully stigmatizes the offender. Allen agreed, but Perry let it be known he would not sign the legislation unless the felony charge remained. At press time, the bill is in the Senate Criminal Justice committee, where its will be a sponsor. Where’s the VP? If the vice president of the United States gives a speech in Dallas and the press and the general public is excluded, does the vice president really exist? Okay, it’s not exactly a Zen koan, but the visit by Dick Cheney, the-usually-at-an-undisclosed-locationvice-president, to Southern Methodist University on May 7 was just as confounding. Cheney’s trip to Dallas was a carefully orchestrated event at which security was tighter than a frog’s bottom. At least 100 police and Secret Service personnel were on-site. Dozens of police cars, a paddy wagon, bomb dogs, half a continued on page 28 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5123103