Sunday, October 19, 2003


I was checking for new dispatches from Stephen and Anthony at GNN when I realized they were live on the chat board. I'm on a lot of discussion lists but I've never done the chat thing in my life. Turned out to be pretty easy and it was kind of cool to be able to have a real time conversation.

They've been having some adventures, what with getting cut off from their hotel by an impromptu gun battle and being chased by packs of feral dogs....

And speaking of Iraq, I ran across this today. Is anybody surprised that the first permanent US commericial installation in Baghdad is a Burger King at the international airport? Conveniently located by the way within a complex heavily fortified with 6,000 soldiers and a significant number of civilian contractors.

Gross as it sounds, the franchise provides a welcome reminder of home to the discouraged troops.

"It's $2 of heaven. It's the only thing getting us through this deployment," Gercken said in reverent tones.

"The perforated edge of that pouch, when you open it up it sings," Beck said.

"I like grease," said a tall, slim Sgt. Michael Beard, 28, from Las Vegas, who scarfed down a Chicken Royale with cheese, a Whopper with cheese, an apple pie and a Coke. "And I need the weight."

There's no mention in the article about how many Iraqis are allowed through the guards and the checkpoints to enjoy their taste of American enterprise. I suspect it's not many.


There have been a lot of developments in the legal arena of the WODSU lately. Looking first to the north, Preston Peet with his usual razor sharp logic, deconstructs the current Canadian cannabis climate. He aptly notes that while it was a small victory for medical marijuana patients, the other provisions create greater penalties for recreational users and small grow operations who would supply that market.

Preston also makes a strong case for the notion that this increased intolerance came about as a result of direct intervention by our own prohibition bureaucrats here in the United States. It's certainly telling that this law proposes to introduce mandatory minimum sentencing, one of the greatest hallmarks of the failure in the WODSU here.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back in the homeland the much touted recent Supreme Court decision refusing to uphold gag orders against doctors who tell their patients about the benefits of marijuana has not received rave reviews from all quarters either. It is rightly another small victory for medical marijuana, and may spur other states to join the eight that already authorize it's use but as Vikram Amar, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, puts it,

"I don't think this is a big victory for medical marijuana. Unless the federal government can't criminalize its use or cultivation, big deal. Doctors can recommend it, but no one can act on the recommendation."

The Wired article goes on to note,

To make things more complicated, the Supreme Court's decision isn't permanent, doesn't cover the entire nation and suggests nothing about the court's views on medical marijuana in general.

Good point. It wasn't really a decision so much as a declination to decide anything. It's better than having them uphold the gag orders, but hardly a courgeous and definitive rendering on the facts of the issue. Not that I expected much from a body heavily stacked with right wing appointees.

Still it wasn't a loss either, and we have to take our victories as they come, however small. I believe if not for the vigorous intervention of the reform community, the outcome could have been far less beneficial. It's actually a rather large victory that SCOTUS would deign to address the case at all.

* * * * *

The nation's jurists are speaking out against this war from all over this country. DRCNet's Drug War Chronicle features an interview with retired New York State Supreme Court Justice, Jerome Marks. Judge Marks has devoted great effort to revoking some of the worst excesses of New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws since his retirement.

He has this to say on mandatory minimums there,

Marks: Money. We have a $5 billion budget deficit this year, and we're not alone. States around the country are changing mandatory minimum laws, especially on drug cases. It costs the state of New York $32,000 a year to keep a man in prison. In Michigan, they will save $60 million by having repealed their mandatory minimums. We could really save some money here, and that is becoming a powerful argument. The fact that we could save millions is why I think change is now possible.

From your mouth to all the ears inside the beltway, Your Honor.


Time is running out to register for the Drug Policy Alliance's biennial conference. They recently posted the agenda. Mandatory sentencing and a wealth of other reform topics will be covered along with training sessions for fledgling activists like myself. I'm hoping they come through with a scholarship for me so I can be there. The presenter's list reads like the who's who of the movement.


It's official. The phenomenon that was Narco News now lies in state, not deceased but in suspended animation. No eleventh hour reprieves appear to be forthcoming and they've posted their Closing Statement. Last word goes to three of my favorite journalists on the planet. Thanks for the ride guys, it sure was fun.

photo Ricardo Sala
I’m grateful to everyone – to our readers and supporters, to the amazing people who have come through the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism in one way or another, and of course, most of all, to Al and Luis – for the opportunity to take a mundane and seemingly boring profession (web programming) and put it to the service of such important tasks.
Dan Feder

photo Jeremy Bigwood
"We were just a few guys with laptops and an enthusiasm that you could call revolutionary…”
Luis Gomez

photo Eclectechmedia
We were lucky that, for three-and-a-half years, a modest but sufficient amount of resources came to us without our having to grovel for them. And we thank, again, each of you who made that possible. The results we’ve achieved, together, speak for themselves.
Al Giordano


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