CityBeat’s Living Out Loud – Cincinnati Blog

{September 22, 2006}   A Short Cooking Lesson

boiling-pot.jpgYou have a pot on the stove. It’s boiling over. What to do? Easy: Remove the lid and turn down the heat.

You have violence in Cincinnati boiling over. What to do?

Most of the proposed solutions–and there have been many lately–fall under the heading of tightening the lid. Hiring more cops and building more jail space are metaphors for tightening the lid.

A minority of solutions has called for turning down the heat. Persons offering this solution are ridiculed by the lid-tighteners as “pie-in-the-sky root causers.”

The first thing Cincinnatians need to ask themselves is: Are we trying to cook beans here? If not, what is the metaphor for heat, and where is the dial to turn it down?

The metaphor for heat is society’s laws that attempt to stop actions that have no victims. For comparison, murder and theft have victims. Drinking a beer while standing on a public sidewalk has no victim. Victimless crimes are commonly referred to as vice laws.

In a democracy, vice laws are for expressing the distaste of the majority for the habits and customs of the minority. Vice laws create heat in many ways: They are impossible to enforce. They encourage anti-government rebelliousness. Because they are impossible to enforce, they incite ridicule of government, which is taken out on police in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways. They create a vicious cycle.

One category of vice laws causes a disproportionate amount of heat. It’s commonly referred to as the War on Drugs. This war, coupled with racial disparities, has evolved into genocide against young, male African-Americans. Absent a war on drugs, the profit in drug-dealing would decline so drastically that drugs would come off street corners and go back into legitimate retail establishments. Street corner drug dealers would no longer be enticed into pursuing a life of crime; a life they are teaching their children.

If Cincinnatians could agree on what’s causing the heat, the next question should be: Do we look to either the chief of police or the sheriff for answers? No. Why? The job of our so-called justice system is to cook beans. To them, that’s job security. If they were ever to produce the tranquility we all desire, they would be out of a job, and they know it. If producing tranquility in society were an experiment being conducted by scientists, police would long ago have been determined to be as useless as are leeches in curing bodily diseases.

Is it possible that removing the lid could truly help stop the boiling over of violence? Perhaps the natural tendency of society, if there were no government “lid,” is toward tranquility, over the long term? Come to think of it, isn’t that the second law of thermodynamics? Our dilemma is that we will not know; at least not in our lifetimes. That’s because the professionals most of us trust to bring about tranquility happen to be the same professionals who have a vested interest in continuing to apply the heat… as well as the lid.

David E. Gallaher


Karen @ the hood says:

I’m not as smart as David, but I live here in Over The Rhine and I see war on drugs here everyday. I’m thinking lowering the heat would make it safer for those who live here.


Right on, David!

And let’s not forget our South American brothers and sisters who suffer in the midst of this sensless “war on drugs” that is really for the proliferation of American hegemony.

Viva Chavez. Hasta la victoria siempre.

Tom says:

I can’t add anything to what David says. Well stated.

Mark says:

Please. If I wanted to read about local politics, I would go to the “stiff” Porkopolis blog where everything is always slanted to the left. We don’t need the same thing here.

Geri says:

I just don’t like it when things get serious here. I think that’s an issue I have with the paper. They use to have fun. Now it’s too serious. We don’t need that here too.

Variety is the spice of life.

Plus, I don’t know long Larry could tolerate hosting this blog if he didn’t get to stretch his intellectual muscle once in a while.

Plus, this post by David is one of the best pieces I’ve ever seen on this topic anywhere. It’s quick, clear, and to the point.

Brilliant, David. Absolutely brilliant.

Jim Stanton says:

What Heather is saying is correct. It appears most seem to like the variety here.

It can also be said that a lot of people in Cincinnati like to look the other way when it comes to serious issues like our police department. David has written an excellent editorial making us take notice. I think when Larry put this up, he knew he was going to make some people uncomfortable. I think that’s part of his job.

Jean says:

David is in one word, nuts.

Explain why David is nuts, Jean. Show us where his argument fails and what he is missing.

I respect your opinion and your right to voice it, and the best thing we can do is have a discussion.

Matt says:

One of the things that drives me nuts on this blog is a person like Jean who comments and really has nothing to say. Calling David nuts, then just leaving it at that is bullshit. If you have nothing to add, go to the Emmylou Harris post and listen to the song.

Brian says:

I tend to agree with David who tends to agree with Heather who tends to agree with Bill Maher. He makes no secret of the fact that he thinks all drugs should be legal.

The war on drugs all started under Reagan. Clinton did nothing to change it and now we have asshole Bush who could actually USE some drugs.

I say make it all legal and tax the hell out of it.

I agree with the idea that we should make drugs legal and tax the hell out of them, but I do have reservations.

It brings to mind visions of “Brave New World” and “soma.” I think that whether drugs are legal or illegal, they would be a tool of government domination and population control.

Now I’m not anti-government, I don’t think anarchy is a good idea because then you truly have a system where the most ruthless, violent, and power-grubbing individuals rise to the top.

But a just government cannot be based on the idea that we need a select group of individuals to control everyone else.

My answer?

Mandatory terms of government service for every single citizen.

Horrifying, I know, but we would truly have a government of, by and for the people. (And I don’t mean mandatory as in jail-time, I mean mandatory as in the only way to receive government benefits.)

Also, there should be no government positions that can be held by the same person for more than five years (corrupt bureaucrats can be just as dangerous as corrupt police).

Joe says:

God, Heather. You give me a headache.

StephE says:

I have always supported the “war on drugs” until recently. I now see that drugs should not scare me, war should scare me. Drugs do hurt people but usually drug use in itself will not kill anyone (abuse is completely different, and abusers are the ones who will use no matter if drugs are illegal or legal). By backing out of the “war on drugs” the dealers would be out of a job, out of a powerful job.

And yes, we should tax it. Tax it and put the money into the school systems and after school programs so more children get a good education. We need to break this cycle of crime in our cities.

Matt says:

Well said, StephE. You should comment more.

Heather says:

Joe: Tell me about it! I give myself headaches.

StephE: Right on.

Ted Stevens says:


What an outstanding editorial this was. Why in the hell wasn’t it in the actual paper? This is plain, simple, easy to follow writing at it’s best. It deserved to be in the voices section of Citybeat. Put this “tt” guy on the blog and write something smart on the actual papers – like yourself.

Please come back and write more.

Johnny says:

It’s late in the day, I just now got around to reading David’s post and it’s Friday, thank God. Let me think about what he has said. It makes a lot of sense. The war on drugs is kind of a joke after all these years. Maybe he is speaking the truth. Being in the corporate world all my life, maybe I don’t know what the truth is anymore. I’m thinking about his words that are so true. Maybe I don’t want to admit it.

I’ll get back to you.

Fran says:

Just have to say excellent editorial by David.

C.A. MacConnell says:

I imagine a lid, yes.

I imagine the issue is deeper than a war or no war. It is within all of us, housewife or businessman, druggie or student, postman or criminal.

I imagine a lid with holes for contents to breathe. Deep within us, within all around, the answer begins with me. When I look at myself, when I change, grow and help, it expands. When I get better, those around me get better. The idea of more jails treats many symptoms, but it utterly fails to treat the overall disease.

I imagine more, educated, extended rehabilitation programs inside jails and treatment centers. I imagine well-financed transitional programs reintroding addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes and criminals into society anew. Help them, give them a chance, and keep helping, if they’re willing. Alas, this takes a lot of work and requires willingness. But I imagine giving it more of a chance.

I imagine more inner city programs involving creative, mental and physical outlets that treat the whole being–physically, mentally, spiritually. I imagine yoga and other combined physical and spiritual outlets and individual attention inside River City Correctional Facility. I imagine pilates, dance, music, art, anger management and more for the women at Marydale. I imagine light therapy, medical attention, literacy training and strong education at the teenage level, or even toddler age, before the onslaught of poverty, violence and street life takes hold. I imagine giving them a chance.

I imagine the money going inside jails and inside non profit organizations that create transitional programs that make a difference. Create and finance programs within, and as each person grows and gets better, in a chain, they pass it on, one person at a time.

That’s the lid I imagine, one that allows for steam, one that looks within, still holding a definite, needed structure, but building from the inside out.

Jeff- or-ly says:

What were you smoking this morning? Ha!

C.A. MacConnell says:

i have no idea. when i figure it out, i’ll let you know.

Sarah says:

I keep reading David’s post. He makes so much sense, but how to we change so much that is broke in our city – in this country? It seems so overwhelming to me.

Tate says:

Everything that David is saying is true, but you will never get the masses in Cincinnati to belive it or buy into it. We are way too backward for progressive thinking. What David is saying is too logical for people to consider – at least here.

Jen says:

Please have David write more and help us understand. I’m so fucking tired of living in over the rhine and being scared to death.

Here is the author himself speaking: Brace yourselves.
Why should we legalize it just so we can tax the hell out of it? (Even Peter Bronson is ready to go down that road.)
Wouldn’t it be rewarding the assholes who made it illegal in the first place? They should be brought to justice, just like Osama, eh?
Peace and tranquility.

Paul says:

As most of you are aware, in March Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance raising the fine for marijuana possession from a $100 fine and no jail time to a $250 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

I worked with a city council member at the time and was able to get a sunset clause added to the law. Unless renewed, the law will expire on March 28th, 2007.

I’m organizing people to make sure that the law will not be renewed. I need 200 people who live in the city to start making phone calls in March with this simple message: “I live in Cincinnati, I vote in Cincinnati, and I don’t want the increased marijuana penalty renewed.”

I’m trying to keep this campaign quiet so that those in favor of drug prohibition don’t organize a similar campaign in support of the law. If you are interested, contact me at and I’ll add your name and phone number or email address (so I can contact you in February) to a list I’m compiling.


P.S. The war on drugs didn’t start with Reagan. The modern phase of the war started in 1970, under President Nixon, with the formation of the Drug Enforcement Agency. And the first anti-drug laws went on the books at the local and state level in 1904.

You’d think after 102 years people would have figured out that drug prohibition doesn’t work.

“I imagine a lid with holes for contents to breathe.”

Great, C. A. MacConnell,
Every last one of us here is eager to move into Insect World over at the Sinincincinnati Zooper.

(We don’t need no steenking “structure.” That’s what exoskeletons are for.)

Jack says:

David makes a good point about “taxing the hell” out of drugs if they were made legal? Indeed, why reward the suits that have made it so difficult for us all these years?

Jim Stanton says:

I’m glad that Paul is bringing attention to the silly pot law that exists in this city much as Larry recently did in his Living Out Loud column called “Reefer Madness.” I’ll be emailing you soon to help fight this law from getting renewed in March.

C.A. MacConnell says:

I don’t think it’s possible to move from the current dogmatic structure to no structure and accomplish positive change. It’s my belief that there has to be transitional help from non profits and transitional programs to assist those suffering, not forced help, but help for those who have a desire and are willing. I feel the money should go here and not to build more jails.

Kevin says:

I hear what David is saying, but the only way you’re going to make drugs legal is to tax it. Yes, you’re helping “the man” but with those kind of people, they will always have to be some kind of trade off.

Erin says:

I agree with ca.

Mark T. says:


Can you post something else? I like the way you write. This post really got me to thinking.


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