Letters to the Editor

From the issue of November 23, 2000

I say kudos to DanceSafe for testing those drugs and thereby promoting communication between the ravers and themselves -- people who can offer guidance and support instead of just passing judgment.

Gillian Mullings

Bernie Rebuts
The messenger messed up the message: On behalf of the Miami Coalition, I formally request that significant portions of this letter, corrections in particular, be published in New Times as soon as possible in rebuttal of Mr. Sokol's slanted and often erroneous article.

As for corrections, Mr. Sokol first erred (his own notes notwithstanding) in his quotation of my comment on the effects of Robitussin cough syrup. I mentioned to the assembled that MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) not MDA, or Ecstasy on the club scene, was present in Robitussin via its derivative chemical compound, DXM (dextromethorphan). According to David Gauvin, Ph.D. and a Drug Enforcement Administration psychopharmacologist, when not consumed orally, DXM is often extracted from over-the-counter cough syrups like Robitussin for inclusion in Ecstasy tablets. Furthermore there is plenty of anecdotal evidence as to this abuse, which Mr. Sokol failed to question but did erroneously quote me as saying, "Oh, we've done studies." That quote is merely a fabrication of his imagination. Mr. Gauvin, however, has quoted the Marquis Field Test as evidence of Robitussin abuse.

As for Mr. Sokol's alleged and nonexistent Miami Herald conspiracy in sponsoring our event and having financial ties to our organization via Knight Ridder, it is a nonissue. We did purchase at public-service rates (as any not-for-profit can and does) ad space [in the Herald] featuring an open letter and advance information of our event. By policy the Herald attaches its logo as a cosponsor to these ads as part of its public-service commitment to all not-for-profits. Apparently Mr. Sokol failed to research that fact, which is a very common practice in media marketing, including broadcast.

The Herald factually covered and reported on our event in its October 29 edition. Where's the smoking gun here? I did not omit mention of this institutional policy as it had little or nothing to do with the event, its message, and its coverage. I would dare say that many if not most of the Herald's editorial staff and management are even aware that Knight Ridder is one of our many private-sector supporters.

Finally, with regard to our friends at DanceSafe and the Third Annual Harm Reduction Conference, we respect their views and their well-meaning attempts to reduce harm among youth. Yet their agenda contradicts their own platform. Their founder, Emanuel Sferios, was recently quoted on 60 Minutes II as saying, "If a pill tests positive for Ecstasy, that is no indication of purity. And even if it is pure, that's no indication of safety. No drug use is safe." Yet they "neither condemn nor condone the use of drugs, but provide people with information so they can make informed choices."

Well, friends at DanceSafe and New Times, which is it? It's not safe, or you can reduce the harm and it is safe? Their position is clearly contradictory. I suppose by that logic the harm-reduction crowd would prefer that young people chew tobacco and smoke cigarettes with filters and cut consumption from two packs to one per day? Or perhaps they would prefer checking handguns for trigger locks and cleanliness just prior to a gang war? Abstinence on this issue, not harm reduction, is clearly the best way to safeguard our families.

We at the Miami Coalition merely believe in utilizing clear, concise, and tested information to educate the public about the dangers of drug use, and then let their good common sense respectfully dictate their choices.

Bernie Diaz, director of communications
Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community

Brett Sokol replies: I'm sure Bernie Diaz believes his intentions are good, but scare tactics and misinformation, such as the statements Diaz now seems embarrassed to have uttered, aren't helping anyone. As for David Gauvin, if he truly believes hoards of drug dealers are somehow extracting DXM from bottles of Robitussin, his Ph.D. should be revoked.

Ballots Are Not Bullets
When cops and prosecutors quarrel, we all lose: If there was any doubt after reading Tristram Korten's "Friendly Fire" (October 26) that Alberto Milian was unfit to serve as State Attorney, his and PBA [Police Benevolent Association] president John Rivera's exiling from their post-election "celebration" a Herald reporter with whom they disagreed (under threat of arrest, no less) sealed the deal. After all, what's the real importance of constitutional freedoms like speech, press, and assembly anyway? But now that Katherine Fernandez Rundle has been re-empowered for another term, there is work to be done and deep, though perhaps mis- and ill-conceived, wounds to heal.

Police and prosecutors at odds makes for more than bad press. It makes for bad decisions. It forebodes serious violations of personal liberties. It threatens the smooth operation of the criminal justice system. And ultimately it undermines public confidence in the rule of law.

Throughout American history we have held steadfast to the ideal that how a humane criminal-justice system treats its outcasts speaks volumes about the type of people we are and the tenor of the society in which we choose to live. Simply, rights that do not belong to the worst of us cannot belong to the best.

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