WorldPeace, drugs, alcohol and tobacco
The following article by Mr. McNeely is a very candid telling of the truth. In a word, the reason that so many people have been killed on Texas highways is that our elected officials were either alcoholics or sucking off the liquor and beer lobby teat. No alcoholic governor or other elected official was going to pass legislation that mandated ten years jail time if someone was killed by an intoxicated driver. Many have died so that a minority of politicians could drink and drive without fear of prison and the liquor and beer sellers could maintain and increase their profits.
I have never smoked because I did not like the way it impaired my ability to breathe. That attitude was further reinforced due to my working at Diagnostic Center Hospital and M. D. Anderson Cancer Institute as an inhalation therapist in 1966 and 1967 while attending college. Once you see a few people with emphysema, your attitude about smoking changes.
In regard to alcohol, I have never been able to tolerate beer because of allergies to the yeast. I drink four or five beers a year. Hard liquor never did anything for me. I drink the equivalent of a fifth of hard liquor about every ten years. A few years ago I tried to make myself drink a small glass a wine with dinner every evening because I believed it was healthy. However, I never liked the taste and gave it up as being too much like taking medicine. I drink a couple of bottles of wine a year.
I am familiar with alcoholism because several people in my family have the craving. I have seen the devastation that alcoholism brings to wives and children through my work in the family law. I do not believe that drinking is a sin. People can drink all they want as far a I am concerned. I only draw the line when their behavior becomes obnoxious and they allow the alcohol to kill or injure someone when they drive while intoxicated.
I have never used illegal drugs for the same reasons that I do not smoke and seldom drink. I think there is a good case for legalizing marijuana but I will not advocate it. To me there is little difference between alcoholism and drug addiction. Prohibition did not work with alcohol and it has not worked with drugs.
I think that nonviolent drug users need to be assigned to special criminal courts which can closely supervise these people outside prison. I do not think we should lock up people who are willing to participate in a close supervision and rehabilitation program outside prison. This idea is already being implemented in some counties in this state and I would encourage the expansion of these programs. I have dealt with many men who have gone to jail for possession of a small amount of drugs and have consequently caused a lot a problems for their families. I think we are all better served if these offenders were allowed to continue to work and support their families as long as they attended drug programs mandated by the courts.
In regard to the governor's campaign:
I do not believe that someone who has used illegal drugs should be governor unless all the candidates have used drugs. I have not used illegal drugs - EVER! The problem of a governor who has used illegal drugs has to do with breaking the law. One cannot effectively govern if one has intentionally broken the law of the land. Perry Sanchez have used illegal drugs and they cannot therefore in good conscience condemn anyone else who has broken any law.
Perry Sanchez cannot say that everyone uses drugs because I am someone and I have not used them. It is time that we demand more of our elected representatives. I believe this was partly the theme of Mr. McNeely's article.
Times have changed more than most people have realized. We have entered a new millennium and things are different in subtle but significant ways. No one can doubt that 911 and now Enron have caused a reevaluation of our morality and ethics as well as our spiritual beliefs.
A new age has now begun and the coming elections in 2002 will present the citizens of Texas with a choice: Perry Sanchez and business as usual or WorldPeace. In the coming elections, the citizens will be voting on John WorldPeace the man for governor and they will simultaneously be voting on a referendum on WorldPeace - as peace, as moral and ethical behavior, as an end to corruption and money politics, and as an acknowledgment of God as is related on our coins "In God We Trust".
The next governor of Texas
December 22, 2001
In Texas, alcohol, politics still mix
By Dave McNeely
Saturday, December 22, 2001
Money may be the mother's milk of politics, but booze is the honey. It has been sweetening the social scene for eons.
And thus it was not strange that state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, had a few beers with constituents in a couple of meetings recently. A patrol officer witnessing the senator's driving later concluded that Barrientos had had one too many and pulled him over. A driving-while-intoxicated charge ensued.
While alcohol-related incidents involving politicians often raise public eyebrows, they rarely end up costing politicians their careers. Barrientos hopes the same will hold true as he runs for re-election next year. "That's up to the people," he said. "I put everything in the people's hands."
Alcohol has never been a stranger in the Texas Legislature, despite years-ago bans on whiskey in state buildings.
The Senate's presiding officer for 18 years beginning in 1973, former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby quickly learned to avoid holding afternoon Senate sessions. It seemed that some key, old-boar senators usually had a few snorts at lunch and came back in what could easily become a combative mood. Night sessions were even more dangerous.
"There was just more social life in those days," recalled Gene Fondren, 74, who was a House member in the 1960s and for decades has been the head lobbyist for the Texas Automobile Dealers Association.
Back in those days -- what might be called the pre-ethics days, before the 1973 reform session of the Legislature when most of the state's law on open meetings, open records and lobby registration were passed -- the liquor lobby gave each legislator a couple of bottles of whiskey at Christmas. The largesse also extended to members of the Capitol press corps.
And as for drinking and driving, the legislators collectively spurned pleas for years to make it a crime, so long as you weren't drunk.
Until 1987 in Texas, as one wag pointed out, you could signal for a turn with a beer in your hand and wouldn't be committing a crime -- as long as you weren't drunk. The alcohol lobby successfully bottled up efforts to make big changes in the law for years, usually by controlling membership of the committee that wrote those laws.
It has only been since Sept. 1 that it has been a crime in Texas to have an open alcohol container in your car.
Beating the rap
Former state Sen. "Good Time" Charlie Wilson, D-Lufkin, stretched local tolerance in 1969 by driving into a parked Cadillac. But Wilson beat a driving-while-intoxicated rap.
"I pled guilty to driving under the influence of prescribed drugs," Wilson recalled in a recent interview.
After Wilson, 68, went to Congress, he rammed another car on a Washington, D.C., bridge in 1983 and then left the scene. He later was charged with a misdemeanor offense and paid a $25 fine. Wilson quit drinking in 1985 for health reasons, although he said he started again.
"It took me several tries to finally stop," said Wilson, who retired from Congress in 1996 and is now a lobbyist. "I haven't had a drink in four years."
Looking back, would he have done things differently?
"No," Wilson said emphatically. "I lived my life the way I wanted to live it, and it was pretty good. Those days in Austin in the '60s, I wouldn't take anything for them." In 1974, Hobby was pulled over in the wee hours, also for weaving down a road. He set the standard for two things in the aftermath.
First, he was released on his own recognizance, which has come to be called the Hobby Rule. Second, he established the model for limiting a story's impact by pleading no contest, publicly apologizing and accepting his fine and probation sentence without objection.
The Hobby model
Barrientos followed the Hobby model. He pleaded no contest and was placed on probation and ordered not to drink for a year. He also paid a $500 fine and must perform 40 hours of community service and attend weekly counseling for a year. Under a law Barrientos voted for earlier this year, his driver's license was suspended for 180 days for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test.
And he apologized. Profusely.
"I made a serious error in judgment," Barrientos said at a Capitol news conference. "I accept responsibility for the consequences of my conduct. To my family and my constituents, I'm truly sorry."
Barrientos and his advisers also went out of their way to limit the story to one day.
New technology allows police to videotape arrests from a camera mounted on their police cruiser. Barrientos' legal representatives gave news organizations copies of the tape of the senator doing a sort of tap dance while trying to balance on one leg. That prevented the story from stretching into a second day while the media lodged public records requests to get the tape.
Barrientos, employed as a marketing and media adviser for beer distributor Centex Beverages, said he'd had four Miller Lites over four hours in a couple of meetings with constituents. Centex Beverages owner Lowell Lebermann said he and his company were "deeply concerned about the situation."
"I very much regret this misstep," Lebermann said. "It was by Gonzalo's own admission a temporary lapse of judgment, and we're very sorry. But he's a good and great man, and we of course intend to work with him on this."
Lebermann doubted that the DWI charge would have an impact on Barrientos' job for Centex. "It shouldn't affect it," Lebermann said. "He will pay his debt, and I thought that the court was quite exacting in meting out his obligation, which he will meet to the letter of the law and beyond."
How the public responds remains to be seen. But if the past is a guide, politicos who apologize and accept their legal punishment generally aren't punished at the polls. Wilson and Hobby continued to be elected after their arrests.
Oscar Mauzy, a notorious tippler during most of his 20-year Senate career, was treated for alcoholism in 1985 before a 1986 run for the Texas Supreme Court. He won the court race, and although he was defeated for re-election six years later, it wasn't because of drinking.
Mauzy followed two other prominent politicians -- the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock and former Gov. Ann Richards -- in admitting to an alcohol problem.
Bullock went to what he called "drunk school" in 1981 but was re-elected in 1982 as comptroller and later became lieutenant governor.
Richards had quietly been treated for alcoholism in 1980, when she was a Travis County commissioner. When she ran for state treasurer in 1982, an opponent tried to use that against her. It backfired. She went on to be elected governor.
In fact, the Alcoholics Anonymous chapters around Austin have a sizable representation of people who have been in and around politics, and they have become an underground network.
A firestorm was fanned for a few days by a revelation five days before the 2000 election that GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush had been arrested for drunken driving in Maine in 1976, when he was 30 -- a fact he had kept secret for 24 years. He said he was sorry, and he won anyway. It was well-known that Bush, 54 at the time, hadn't had a drink since the day after his 40th birthday.
A different era
Capitol observers say that despite Barrientos' brush with the law, times have changed.
"I am confident that (alcohol) plays a much lesser role today than it did when I served in the Legislature," Fondren said.
Nick Kralj, who was an aide to Ben Barnes while Barnes was House speaker and lieutenant governor in the late 1960s and early 1970s, agrees.
"I think there's a whole lot less drinking than there was 15 years ago," he said. "The attitude toward drinking and driving has changed so much that I think the members are much more careful than they once were, and they're much more dispersed because you've got a lot more restaurants and watering holes. . . . And now the members seem to work so much harder, and they don't go out to eat and have drinks at lunch like they used to. And they go home."
Kralj ran a popular eating and drinking spot called The Quorum from 1973 to 1985.
"That was just about the central place where everyone went, whether they were Republican or Democrat or lobbyist," Kralj said. "It was a centralized eating and drinking place, and a lot of both. But there was a camaraderie about it. It was almost mandatory to be there, not so much for the alcohol as for the information."
Kralj was a pioneer in trying to help his customers avoid driving drunk. He would pay the cab fare for anyone too drunk to drive safely and had a sign near his front desk that said: "Please take advantage of our complimentary taxi service. You don't need a DWI. Love, Nick."
Barrientos said concern about driving after drinking shouldn't be limited to people in politics. He hopes others will learn from his mistake.
"It's not just legislators and booze," he said. "It's everybody in the country. People ought to think. I don't care if you're a laborer, or blue collar or whoever -- don't do it. If there's any kind of question, just take the side of caution."
You may contact Dave McNeely at firstname.lastname@example.org or 445-3644.