Saturday, January 31, 2004


Could the Bush camp have finally struck on a winning campaign strategy?

BOSTON—Addressing guests at a $2,000-a-plate fundraiser, George W. Bush pledged Monday that, if re-elected in November, he and running mate Dick Cheney will "restore honor and dignity to the White House."

"After years of false statements and empty promises, it's time for big changes in Washington," Bush said. "We need a president who will finally stand up and fight against the lies and corruption. It's time to renew the faith the people once had in the White House. If elected, I pledge to usher in a new era of integrity inside the Oval Office."

Of course not, it's only the Onion.

[Link ironically via Mark Kleiman]. Should I be worried that I agreed with him twice in two weeks?


I've run across a few odd sites this week that may amuse you or even assist those inclined to researching the issues.

The Annenberg Political Fact Check looks promising. I haven't actually used it yet, but I like their mission statement.

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

I haven't tried to use yet either, (mainly because I can't figure out how), but I kept the link because someone on Metafilter gave it a good review and so far it's still a free image hosting service.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the world's population according to the World PopClock Project is 6,345,626,513.

I love GREEK MYTHOLOGY TODAY. I was put off by the hyperactive graphics, however, the content totally engaged me. The student section houses a user-friendly base of academic knowledge but it's the Myth of the Month side that will keep me coming back again.

It's funny, I adore mythology and for years I've been wanting to build a new work on those stories myself. Meanwhile, Nick Pontikis -- real or imagined descendant of the Gods of Olympus -- does it well.

And just in case you have to know, this is how Jedi I am.

:: how jedi are you? ::

[Link thanks to Treva at Lift The Veil, the first person to link a site to Last One Speaks and also my first html instructor.]


Thanks to JackL for sending this item about a inmate who took his rehabilitation into his own hands. It's a pretty amazing story.

Consider Paul Wright's life by the numbers: 38 years old; 17 years in prison for murder; 15 years (all while in prison) as editor of Prison Legal News -- currently the only nationally distributed prisoners' rights journal; co-author/editor of two books, The Celling of America and the award-winning Prison Nation; 14 court victories against prison systems around the country, all affirming the First Amendment rights of prisoners, plus so many injunctions and consent decrees that he can't recall them all; 11 years of marriage (all while in prison); two children (conceived during the state?s Department of Corrections family visit program); 43 days since he was released from the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe.

Wright is luckier than a lot of ex-convicts. He obviously has a good deal of inner resources and he has his work with the paper.

The paper started as 10 photocopied pages distributed by hand and has grown to a 40-page monthly with 3,600 subscribers throughout the U.S. and many other countries. Over the years, Prison Legal News has broken a variety of stories picked up by newspapers around the nation. Wright has also been an important tipster for reporters and editors, including me. He considers his biggest journalistic achievement to be jump-starting the policy debate over prison labor. He has exposed the use of prisoners by contractors for Microsoft, Starbucks, Boeing, and former U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf, among others.

Even for Wright the transition has not been easy, but he has a strong personal support system and will no doubt succeed in becoming a productive member of society. The revolving door of recidivism however, still turns on the many who come out unprepared after decades of strict regulations 'inside' to an explosion of choices to be made on the 'outside'.

Drug testing won't help those inmates succeed, but comprehensive life-skills training before they get out would.


Marsha Rosenbaum, of the Drug Policy Alliance has an excellent essay posted at Alternet on Bush's plan to leave no pee behind. This 23 million dollar boondoggle is being dangled in front of school districts as an incentive to institute random drug testing. Bush credited a reported decrease in teenage drug use to this program. He's lying of course and the study itself does not support his statement. It's a dangerous deceit.

...Thoughtful investigations instead reveal that random drug testing does not deter drug use, and that it alienates students.

Last year's large federally funded survey that showed declines in illegal drug use also compared schools with and without drug testing. It turned out there was no difference in illegal drug use among students in drug testing v. non-drug testing schools.[emphasis added] Aside from imparting misinformation about the deterrent value of testing, since only 5 percent of American schools currently utilize drug testing, Bush's crediting these programs for reductions in use is putting the cart before the horse.

And that's not the only counter-productive aspect.

Testing can have the unanticipated effect of keeping students from participating in after-school, extracurricular programs – the very same activities that would fill their time during the peak teenage drug-using hours of 3-6 PM. A Tulia, Texas student summed it up when she said, "I know lots of kids who don't want to get into sports ... because they don't want to get drug tested. That's one of the reasons I'm not into any [activity]. I'm on medication, so I would always test positive, and then they would have to ask me about my medication, and I would be embarrassed. And what if I'm on my period? I would be too embarrassed."

The tests are humiliating, and a waste of resources in cash strapped schools.

School administrators in Dublin, Ohio, for example, calculated that their $35,000 per year drug testing program was not cost-efficient. Of 1,473 students tested, at $24 each, 11 tested positive, for a total cost of $3,200 per "positive" student. They cancelled the program, and with the savings were able to hire a full-time counselor and provide prevention programs for all 3,581 students.

Rosenbaum goes on to make the point that teenagers need to be taught to make responsible decisions in order to succeed in the adult world and they must also feel trusted to feel safe. We agree. It's time to put the teaching back into education and limit the testing to the student's knowledge. Let's leave their bodily fluids out of it.


Barry Crimmins has his latest issue of Crimquips up and in his usual wry manner puts the pieces of the primary picture together. I love the way this man thinks. He dismisses the Skull and Bones conspiracy theory with sound logic and posts this important point about his reasoning on Kerry.

Were I voting tomorrow it would be for Dennis Kucinich. And I have sniped at Kerry for years- in Massachusetts - in print -- on stage. But unlike George W. Bush when Kerry runs into someone he knows he is courteous and says hello, rather than snubbing that person over political differences. Had I ever known Bush and then publicly challenged and criticized his positions do you think I could have ever expected any sort of courtesy from the man? Of course not.

I voted for Gore for the same reason. I wasn't so much thrilled about his platform as much as I was convinced he at least had some social grace. I predicted from the get-go that Bush would embroil us in an international diplomacy disaster because he has none.

I've witnessed that same dearth of courtesy in the blogosphere among the right wing Bush Policy Apologists Cabal (BPAC) as they delight in their mockery of the left's words - focusing always on obscure statements taken out of context in order to obfuscate the larger and valid points. The Articulate Liberals In Search of Truth (ALIST) however, are unfortunately not always immune to this affliction either.

I've been shouted at by anarchists, socialists, communists, Marxists and Libertarians who tell me that I just don't get the point. But I do. I get all their points. I just don't think anyone is ever entirely correct, not even me and their models all fail on the unaddressed problem of man's inherent self-interest.

Common ground by definition must be shared and the only way to reach a social consensus is to respect each other's opinions - no matter how much we disagree. You can't build consensus with self-righteous disdain and intractable ideology, even if you really are right. The foundation of civil society rests on courteous discourse and compromise and in a civilized debate, manners matter.


I haven't had a quote of the day for a long time, and this one came in from one of my favorite presidents. I always thought he was under-rated.

"All three of my boys smoked pot. I knew it. But I also knew if one was caught he would never go to prison. But if any of my [black] neighbors got caught, they would go to prison for ten, twelve years. No law school has had the temerity to look at what is fundamentally wrong with our legal system, which discriminates against the poor."

-- Jimmy Carter, Emory University Law School, 14 October 2003

(courtesy of Allan Erickson on the MAPtalk list)

And neither have I had a last word. Tonight it goes to the other George Bush.

"Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

- George H.W. Bush (Bush senior) and Brent Scowcroft in their 1998 book, A World Transformed.

Too bad he didn't pass that intelligence onto his son.


The news has been so heavy lately that it was great to find this uplifting piece about one man who fought the system and won. It's a true story that left me with the kind of good feeling you get at the end of an old Jimmy Stewart movie.

Most people think that they could never defeat United States Army. The Army possesses nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and knows how to use them. They have Apache helicopters, Abrams tanks, and more depleted uranium rounds than you can shake a stick at! No one would believe that one man, not even one as strong as Arnold Schwarzenegger, could defeat the Army. Yet using my method, I was able to defeat the entire United States Army and gain my freedom – armed with nothing but my underpants. I have a certified letter from the US government to prove it!

It's worth the time to read the whole thing.

[Link thanks to Preston Peet at]

Friday, January 30, 2004


Yet another edited extract from The Bubble of American Supremacy, by George Soros has surfaced in the last week. Although you can buy the book in its entirety, he also seems to be releasing it one page at a time through periodic editorials. This one looks at the danger of Bush's extremist foreign policy and his domestic campaign to distort the facts.

The gap in perceptions between America and the rest of the world has never been wider. Abroad, America is seen as abusing the dominant position it occupies; opinion at home has been led to believe that Saddam posed a clear and present danger to national security. Only in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion are people becoming aware they have been misled.

He eloquently delivers some harsh criticism of the regime.

And we have been deceived. When he stood for election in 2000, President Bush promised a humble foreign policy. I contend that the Bush administration has deliberately exploited September 11 to pursue policies that the American public would not have otherwise tolerated. The US can lose its dominance only as a result of its own mistakes. At present the country is in the process of committing such mistakes because it is in the hands of a group of extremists whose strong sense of mission is matched only by their false sense of certitude.

This distorted view postulates that because we are stronger than others, we must know better and we must have right on our side. That is where religious fundamentalism comes together with market fundamentalism to form the ideology of American supremacy.

And delivers a timely warning.

The gap between the administration's expectations and the actual state of affairs could not be wider. We have put at risk not only our soldiers' lives but the combat readiness of our armed forces. We are overstretched and our ability to project our power has been compromised. Yet there are more places where we need to project our power than ever. North Korea is openly building nuclear weapons; Iran is doing so clandestinely. The Taliban is regrouping in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan. The costs of occupation and the prospect of permanent war weigh on our economy, and we are failing to address festering problems both at home and globally. If we ever needed proof that the neo-cons' dream of American supremacy is misconceived, Iraq has provided it.

And also offers a practical solution.

If Bush is rejected in 2004, his policies can be written off as an aberration and America resume its rightful place in the world. But if he is re-elected, the electorate will have endorsed his policies and we will have to live with the consequences. But it isn't enough to defeat Bush at the polls. The US must examine its global role and adopt a more constructive vision. We cannot merely pursue narrow, national self-interest. Our dominant position imposes a unique responsibility.

People either love or hate Soros, me - I love the guy and I like what he says. Read the whole piece. He makes a good point on how the world still looks to the US to set the tone if you will, for international relations and it's up to the voters now to tell the world that Bush does not speak for us.


I haven't been able to find any other coverage of this item on the news wires so I'm posting the whole section from this week's Crime & Justice News e-bulletin that arrived in the in-box thanks to my buddy JackL. It appears the program we were just speaking of earlier this week, may only be in suspended animation and not necessarily dead.

ADAM Drug Testing Revival Proposed By Bush

The White House will ask Congress for $6.5 million to continue a revamped program of testing arrestees around the country for substance abuse. The Justice Department said today that the proposal would be included in the fiscal year 2005 budget request for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), which oversees research on crime fighting. President Bush will send the overall budget to Congress next week.

Two weeks ago, NIJ halted work on the program, called Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring, or ADAM, citing a reduced NIJ budget approved by Congress. Unless localities find funds to continue testing arrestees, the data gathering will be interrupted pending congressional action on funding.

Law enforcement experts and criminologists have praised ADAM for providing up-to-date information on drug abuse trends in localities.

NIJ said it is working with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the White House "drug czar") to replace ADAM with a data collection system that will provide national estimates of drug use by arrestees. Critics have expressed doubts that such an arrangement would provide meaningful data because drug abuse trends tend to vary significantly by locality.

The Justice Department said the new program would involve about 25 "core sites" that would "collect data to both inform local law enforcement practices" and to "contribute to the national estimate of arrestee drug use." An additional 50 or more sites would be added later.

A Justice Department spokesperson said that the $6.5 million request, if approved by Congress, might provide for testing at less frequent intervals than the quarterly testing done now. NIJ had killed the program because it was costing more than $8 million a year, and Congress cut the agency's total research budget to $6 million.

Bruce Johnson of N.D.R.I., which oversees ADAM testing in New York City, said he hoped Congress would provide funds to continue the program, but the "political realities don't look promising." Johnson said that even if money were restored, losing 2004 data and the structure to collect it will be a "disaster." He noted that it took about two years in the late 1990s to overhaul the former Drug Use Forecasting program, which started in the late 1980s, into what became the ADAM program that was killed this month by NIJ.

ADAM has involved urine testing of all arrestees for serious crimes in 35 places. Contrary to some reports, it is not restricted to jail inmates.

Ask your Congress creature to vote no on refunding this project. As the article notes, the lapse in data collection will render the program useless and the money would end being spent to get back to square one. Besides why does the government need to spend 6.5 million to figure out that inmates are using drugs. We could tell them that for free and charting numbers merely create more reports, not solutions.

They would do better to design an entirely new program with that kind of money that offers treatment options to arrestees with drug addictions. They could probably extrapolate some useful statistics from the numbers of addicts that avail themselves of the service and actually do something constructive rather than punitive to alleviate the problem.

I also think that if the prohibitionists feel they need this data so badly, the funding should have been coming out of the DEA's budget and not the Justice Department.


The 'white flight' that emptied urban centers and created a boom in suburban 'bedroom communities' decades ago was driven largely by parents' desire to enroll their kids in better schools. Parents believed their children would be safer outside of the gritty reality of the inner city. This recent study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research indicates the students face the same temptations and succumb pretty equally.

This report finds that those perceptions are unfounded. Using hard data on high school students from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, one of the most comprehensive and rigorous studies of the behavior of American high school students, it finds that suburban public high school students have sex, drink, smoke, use illegal drugs, and engage in delinquent behavior as often as urban public high school students. Students also engage in these behaviors more often than most people realize.

In fact the numbers would indicate that suburban students even out-do their urban counterparts.

Urban and suburban high schools are virtually identical in terms of widespread sexual activity. Two thirds of all suburban and urban 12th graders have had sex; 43% of suburban 12th graders and 39% of urban 12th graders have had sex with a person with whom they did not have a romantic relationship.

Pregnancy rates are high in both suburban and urban schools, although they are higher in urban schools; 14% of suburban 12th grade girls and 20% of urban 12th grade girls have been pregnant.

Over 60% of suburban 12th graders have tried cigarette smoking, compared to 54% of urban 12th graders; 37% of suburban 12th graders have smoked at least once a day for at least 30 days, compared to 30% of urban 12th graders.

Alcohol use followed a similar pattern; 74% of suburban 12th graders and 71% of urban 12th graders have tried alcohol more than two or three times; 63% of suburban 12th graders and 57% of urban 12th graders drink without family members present; 22% of suburban 12th graders and 16% of urban 12th graders have driven while drunk.

About four out of ten 12th graders in both urban and suburban schools have used illegal drugs; 20% of suburban 12th graders and 13% of urban 12th graders have driven while high on drugs.

Urban and suburban students are about equally likely to engage in other delinquent behaviors such as fighting and stealing.

The lesson here for parents I think is that you can't protect your children from the dangers of growing up. The only intervention that works is communication and trust. The best way to keep them safe in any environment is through honest discussion on the consequences of bad choices. Talk to your kids, and more importantly listen to what they have to say.

Thursday, January 29, 2004


Prosecutors have been largely silent on the failure of the drug war, but I think it's good to remember that there's a lot of decent men and women on that side of the law that took the job because they wanted to prosecute real criminals, like murderers and rapists and pedophiles and don't want to be imprisoning cannabis consumers.

Tamara Halphen sends this story on a departing DA from Georgia, who pulls no punches on the subject.

As he ends a 21-year career as a prosecutor, DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan offers some blunt warnings:

People increasingly don't trust cops, leading to juries that won't convict.

Frustration of victims who don't see offenders held accountable could invite vigilante justice.

Many citizens regard the war on drugs as misguided and hypocritical.

"I think our whole war on drugs needs to be looked at," Morgan said as he prepares to leave office Saturday. He said people see crack cocaine users being sent to prison "and on the other hand you've got Rush Limbaugh getting thousands of [prescription pills] and he's making millions of dollars and he's out on the street."

The result, he said, is that "juries will no longer hold individuals accountable in drug cases. . . . Juries are telling us that prosecution is not the answer."

Small wonder, as the US gulag grows fat on the flesh of well over two million souls, no family has escaped unscathed by this war.


The title may be premature, the prosecution could still take this to the state Supreme Court however, the Iowa Appeals court handed down a great decision in a traffic stop case.

Alright, so the guy really did have 227 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his rental car but it's clear to me the evidence should have been suppressed. The cops were fishing, something I see as a growing trend of 'cannabis consumer profiling'. It's apparent here in the Happy Valley on the interstate going into Vermont, well-known lair of plant afficionados. But judge for yourself.

Nikolsky was first stopped that day in western Iowa by State Patrol trooper Jason Bardsley, who noticed the California plates on the car and followed it off the highway to a closed gas station and back on the highway for about 21/2 miles, the decision states.
Bardsley asked him questions about his destination, sought permission to search the car and ultimately had a drug-sniffing dog brought to the scene for an external search of the vehicle, according to the decision.
When the dog did not detect any drugs, Bardsley allowed Nikolsky to leave, but he contacted Trooper Jeffrey Benson in eastern Iowa with a description of the car, the decision states.

Now here's the second stop.

Benson said he identified Nikolsky’s car because it was only traveling 62 mph in contrast with the “75-(mph)-plus” rate of the other I-80 traffic and also noticed that Nikolsky looked straight ahead, did not look at him and had both hands on the wheel, according to the decision.
The trooper pulled over Nikolsky when he said he saw the driver weave over the center line and weave in an exaggerated fashion inside his lane. But the appeals court said a review of a videotape taken from Benson’s vehicle did not show those things happen and there was testimony that it was a windy day.

He pulled him over because he was driving too safely? He called in the drug dog again, who miraculously 'hit' the car and they opened the truck. The cop later admitted he made the stop based on the phone call.

Much is being made these days about the danger to the public from those driving under the influence of cannabis. I don't know when the driver of that car last got high, but you can pretty much be sure he's at least inhaled once and it sounds to me like he was driving better than most of the people I get behind on the interstates.

[Cheers to Eric Mytko for this and many other tips]


Thanks to Bradley Osborn for sending in a link to a couple of fun videos. MARIJUANALOGUES HIT "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER" made me laugh. If you like what you see, the site has a calendar of performances.

He also sent this cute flash animation on the Cheney and Scalia hunting trip done by Mark Fiore. If you like Fiore's work, check this one out - it's short but pithy.

And for those of you who have been following the discussion at the Kerry Internet Town Meeting, it's up to 19 pages and still growing. Join in if you can and keep this issue alive.


When I'm posting on the fly, sometimes I don't proof my entries until several hours later. Occasionally I forget to check at all. Such was the case recently when I posted this.

Mark Kleiman finally said something I absolutely agreed with on the shutdown of a government sponsored data collection program called Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM).

I realized I left the impression that I agreed with the premise of his post when I didn't quote the one sentence I agreed with, so here it is:

I suppose if you're running an administration where facts are never allowed to interfere with decisions, it's not necessary to gather any actual data.

I thought the closing of their most cost effective data collection tool on the heels of Bush's proposal to spend 23 million dollars to invade students' privacy with pee testing demonstrates how willing the prohibitionists are to waste your money on programs that contribute nothing to solving the problem of drug abuse. As far as the program itself goes, Talk Left speaks for me.

We think it's a privacy invasion to the inmates. They committed a crime, they go in to do their time. Why should the Government be entitled to their bodily fluids? Sorry, but we don't think a social studies project is a good enough reason.

I agree that we are well rid of this program. Unfortunately, according to Fox Butterfield at the New York Times,

An official of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said that he had "enormous respect" for the jail testing but that budget realities had forced the administration to rethink it. The administration is working on a leaner, less expensive version that will provide a national estimate of drug use among criminals, something that the current program did not do, because its figures are local.

This is only one of many useless data collection programs being paid for with your money in order to justify the ill-conceived agenda of the prohibitionists. Talk Left as always, sums it up well.

Why is the Government spending so much money --$23 million--on social science projects and surveys instead of on providing treatment and alternatives to prison for drug users? Why are inmates being forced to be statistical guinea pigs?

Treatment works, surveys accomplish nothing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


There's about three inches of glittery snow in lovely downtown Noho tonight. It definitely improved the view over the soot blackened lumps of ice that were left from the last storm.

Likewise for the view inside the City Cafe. John Riley and Tully McColgan are redefining the term hands-on owners. The guys and their families are sprucing up the place from the walls to the railings. I'm glad they're doing it in stages. Less of a shock that way.

Meanwhile, although the bartenders are changing, the faces around the bar in the 5:00-7:00 crowd remain the same comfortable group of regulars. There's often the stray traveler as well however and tonight I met Brent, who has his life all worked out. He's from New Zealand and has a delicious accent. He drives big trucks in the US for five months and then takes a month off and travels.

Very interesting guy. He's from New Zealand and told me he had been to 87 countries out of the 139 in the world. I questioned that, as I thought there were more and he admitted he hadn't checked. I just did and the first hit said there are 193, so he has a longer way to go to fulfill his goal of visiting every one but I think he might still do it. He had a funny story about his lost luggage chasing him across the globe, and he's the second person I've ever met who told me they managed to fill up a passport before it expired. I want to do that some day...

Speaking of travelers, my friend Paul von Hartmann checked in today to introduce a new member of the growing international coalition to promote progress in cannabis policy, Network For Prohibition. The associated blog looks worth checking out.

Hearing from Paul always reminds me to check in on Maria Mercedes Moreno at Mama Coca. If you haven't signed their petition demanding an end to fumigation in the Amazon rain basin, please take a moment to do so. This petition has nothing to do with drugs and everything to do with the health of an entire population and the well-being of our planetary ecosystem. The list could use stronger support from US citizens.

So could the ANGEL DECLARATION in the UK and the Cannabis Consumers Campaign and many others for that matter. There are thousands of us working at our separate projects in an effort to bring sanity into drug policy and every one is integral in building that meme but like my friend Paul, I think we can only increase our effectiveness by supporting each other's work.


A couple of quick items from the morning news. This from EFF about a Pepsi ad scheduled to premiere on the Superbowl. It appears some of those teenagers fined by the RIAA are not only to recoup their money but will also get their fifteen minutes of fame.

Some 20 teens sued by the Recording Industry Association of America, which accuses them of unauthorized downloads, will appear in a Pepsi-Cola (PEP) ad that kicks off a two-month offer of up to 100 million free — and legal — downloads from Apple's iTunes, the leading online music seller. The sassy ad, to be seen by Super Bowl's 88 million viewers on Feb 1, is a wink at the download hot button. Pepsi hopes the promotion will connect its flagship cola, as well as Sierra Mist and Diet Pepsi, with teens who've shown more affinity for bottled water, energy drinks and the Internet.

My guess is that it will prove more effective in its marketing goal than the ONDCP ads for which the taxpayer will foot the bill again.

And more news from the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals. As part of a two day conference, the 15 feisty judges of that court have issued an en banc objection to a new law limiting their discretion in sentencing people convicted of crimes, saying Congress should have consulted them before acting.

Judge John Coughenour of Seattle said the group had "virtual unanimity" in its disdain for the law, which compels judges to strictly follow sentencing guidelines and orders that reports be sent to Congress on anyone who deviates from them.

A sentiment being voiced from the bench all across the country.

The change, which was supported by Attorney General John Ashcroft, was part of an anti-crime bill signed by President Bush last year.

Another tough on crime measure that is just plain dumb.


CBS is clearly not going to air the Move-on or PETA ads, despite over 340,000 emails and phone calls in protest. You can see the banned ad by clicking on the graphic. Meanwhile the ONDCP will be airing theirs and this year they intend to make a link between drugs and alcohol. Drug War Rant has the link to those.

The prohibitionists don't want us to take anything that makes us feel good and have been widening their agenda to include drinking. I've noticed more spokesman for the alcohol lobby on the talking head programs, using the same drug policy reform arguments to defend responsible consumption of their product. Kind of ironic really.

I also received a link to this Associated Press survey this morning. They are soliciting public opinion on election coverage. This is your chance to tell the mainstream media what issues you want covered in the future. Maybe they'll even listen.

And for those of you who didn't have the time to wade through the Kerry Internet Town Meeting discussion on the War On Drugs, I pulled out a few choice posts to entice you into the fray:

One of the most logical anti-prohibition posts I've ever read.

Supermoderator Sandra does not like the lack of Kerry cheerleading.

David Guard, MPP makes sense.

CalGal4Kerry - supermoderator with an open mind?

Steve from Clearwater with an offer Kerry should not refuse.

The thread is still open and generating traffic. Take this rare opportunity to let the new Democratic front-runner know what you think.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


Everybody is talking about the primary results in New Hampshire - boring. Did anyone expect Kerry would lose? I'm finding the continuing thread on the War On Drugs at the Kerry Internet Town Meeting infinitely more interesting. It's reached 15 pages which I understand is longer than most topics in the forums and there's reports that tempers are heating up again.

Last time I was there, the admin posted the rules. I hear it's heating up again. Scrolling through, it appears the admins take their role very seriously, and are willing to exercise their power. I don't get what they're bitching about. To be fair, I posted in at page 11 and haven't been back since just before it hit 13 but I didn't see any major flaming.

The debate I've seen so far has been informative and reasonable although not necessarily pro-Kerry which I suspect forms the basis for the admin's touchiness. I saw a lot of new people joining in the debate when I scrolled through, so I think I'll sign off for the night and go see what they had to say. I encourage you to drop by yourself and tell the front-runner what you think.

"That's the spirit Thing, lend a hand!"

While the Democrats are busy fighting each other, it appears our peerless misleader has been surrepitiously pressing the flesh on the circuit. I would thank Jules Siegel for sending in this link to President Bush Speaks with Nation's Mayors at Winter Meeting except that by the time I got to this paragraph, I was reaching for my blood pressure medicine. I loathe dishonesty and this was such a bald faced lie that it had me sputtering to myself in outrage.

And as importantly, the people of Afghanistan are free. They're free from the clutches of one of the most barbaric regimes in history. It is hard for the Western mind to fathom such a regime, a regime that refuses to allow young girls to go to school. But that's the way it was. And today, thanks to our coalition, and our deep love for freedom, and our intense desire to protect ourselves, young girls go to school in Afghanistan, and the world is better off for it. (Applause.)

The people of Afghanistan are not free. They suffer under the same indignities they did before we bombed their country, (as Andrea Harris put it), into glass ashtrays and by all accounts the Taliban are regrouping and are now turning to the heroin trade - that they had virtually eliminated while in power - to fund their resurgence.

I've been following the situation there for months and have posted on it almost since I started Last One Speaks. All the 03 posts are pre-permalink so you have to scroll to find them, but the linked material paints a much different picture and it's not that pretty at all. You can make your own judgment. Read some of them for yourself, 1/4/04, 12/16/03, 12/15/03, 12/4/03, 12/3/03, 11/18/03, 10/31/03, 8/28/03, 8/26/03 and 8/23/03.

I'm not going to read the rest of Bush's remarks. I've had as much deceit as I can stomach in one day, but for those of stronger constitution, digest those falsehoods and vote in 04 like your life depends on it -- it does.

[Title thanks to one of my personal favorites, the Addams Family pinball machine and by the way, we do thank Jules for the link. Check out his latest treasure, a work of art disguised as an ordinary book.]


I have of couple of off topic items this afternoon that I found amusing. Today's Lawyers Weekly USA links to this piece on defendant Conrad J. Braun, 54, who was in court on Friday for a ruling on whether a blackmail case filed against him last summer should go to trial. Conrad apparently felt he was the wrongful victim of a sting operation and illustrated his point by appearing before the bench dressed in a bumble-bee costume. It gives new meaning to the phrase, "dress to impress." The judge was not amused.

And I've been musing about what it must have been like to attend this event. I'm posting this because I just found a video link to the Pope entertaining break-dancers at the Vatican.

The 83-year-old pontiff seemed to approve, waving his hand after each dancer completed a move, then applauding for the entire group. He watched the performance from a raised throne.

"For this creative hard work I bless you from my heart," he said.

I'm not Catholic but I still find this a little out of character for the solemn halls of the Holy See. Do you think the Catholic church is trying to entice their young parishioners back into the fold?


Alternet has a good article on State's Rights v. Federal Tyranny. Dave Morris traces the history behind the fed's use of the Intrastate Commerce Clause against legal conduct under state statutes and looks at the recent 9th Circuit decision regarding federal raids against medical marijuana patients. The plaintiffs had asked for an injunction against future raids until their case reached a final disposition. A lower court denied the motion. The Circuit court overturned that decision.

The three-judge panel found that the plaintiffs are indeed likely to succeed in proving that the federal law, as it applies to them, is unconstitutional. It directed the lower court to issue the injunction.

The case is expected to go all the way to the US Supreme Court and Morris offers hope for a favorable outcome noting "recent Supreme Court rulings limiting the federal government's ability to criminalize personal behavior".

In any event, the Circuit Court certainly got it right.

In its decision about medical marijuana the 9th Circuit Court reasoned that homegrown for one's own use "is not properly characterized as commercial or economic activity." Moreover, it concluded that any health and safety considerations were alleviated if not eliminated by the requirement that a doctor's prescription was necessary.

Morris further notes, even as the federal morality police ramp up their assault on personal liberty, the judiciary is coming to its senses.

So here we are. Conservatives dominate all three branches of government. They are using their control of the legislative and executive branches to assert their authority to police individual behavior. Meanwhile, their brethren on the judicial bench are using arguments from a pre-New Deal era to deny them that authority.

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Monday, January 26, 2004


The reopened drug war topic on the Kerry Internet Town Meeting forum turned out to be very interesting. The consensus seems to be that Kerry has an opportunity to reignite the slumbering 60s lefties if he shows some real leadership on the cutting edge issues but so far has failed to live up to the courage of the last president to bear his initials. I agree.

I found a sanitized transcript of the MSNBC Got Ribs? press conference on Tim Blair. This is from Bush's own site and does not do the video we spoke of earlier justice. For one thing the exchange was much longer and the pictures spoke thousands of untranscribed words.

TChris hosting at TalkLeft posted an update on the government's response to contempt charges in the Don Nord case we've been following. The feds of course asked that the charges be dismissed on the grounds they were acting under the protection of federal law.

He notes that defense attorney Kristopher Hammond makes a good point on the feds conduct in this matter.

In a society based on the rule of law, the proper response to a court order the government considers to be flawed is to appeal the order, not to disobey it.

It certainly makes sense to me that those who swear to uphold the law and should lead by example and show more respect for it.


Before I get off the prison theme, I've been holding this column that made an excellent point on another failing of our penal system. Governor Jeb Bush made a big deal about faith based rehabilitation recently. As Tonyaa Weathersbee points out, it means nothing if he is "fighting the one thing that would bring their rehabilitation full circle -- that one thing being the automatic restoration of their right to vote once they've completed their sentences." The 11th Circuit US Appeals Court would agree.

By a 2-1 vote, the appeals court partially reversed a summary judgment in favor of Bush, the Cabinet and the state's election supervisors by finding that there was evidence that the state's felony disenfranchisement law was designed to discriminate against black people and that the vestiges of that discrimination may still exist.

...More than 10 percent of the state's black residents who are of voting age are banned from voting because of felony convictions, while one in five black males can't vote because of a felony conviction -- even though they've fully served their sentence.

...The law also has no logical basis: No evidence exists to show that stripping felons of the right to vote deters them from committing further crimes. If anything, disenfranchisement serves as a barrier against true rehabilitation by keeping felons outside of the society instead of giving them a stake in it.

Florida is one of only four remaining states to bar first-time felons from voting unless they receive clemency. I'm sure I don't have to remind you that this law was instrumental in Jeb's brother being appointed to the presidency. I know what I think, but draw your own conclusions.

The problem is the prison system has become one more cog in the political PAC money machine. Outside of the devastating impact the 'tough-on-nonviolent drug crime" mandatory sentencing has had on state budgets, reform is stymied by the corporate complex that has grown around those laws. TalkLeft posted the definitive column of the week on America's Prison Habit.

Since 1980 the U.S. prison and jail population has quadrupled in size to more than 2 million. In the process, prisons have embedded themselves into the nation's economic and social fabric. A powerful lobby has grown up around the prison system that will fight hard to protect the status quo.

Major companies such as Wackenhut Corrections Corp. and Corrections Corp. of America employ sophisticated lobbyists to protect and expand their market share. The law enforcement technology industry, which produces high-tech items such as the latest stab-proof vests, helmets, stun guns, shields, batons and chemical agents, does more than a billion dollars a year in business.

With 2.2 million people engaged in catching criminals and putting and keeping them behind bars, "corrections" has become one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, employing more people than the combined workforces of General Motors, Ford and Wal-Mart, the three biggest corporate employers in the country.

Prison reform for the greater social good is not high on their agenda.

When states try to cut prison budgets, they quickly come up against powerful interests. In Mississippi in 2001, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove vetoed the state's corrections budget so he could spend more money on schools. The legislature, lobbied by Wackenhut, overrode the veto.

In fiscally distressed California, about 6 percent of the state budget goes to corrections. Yet no senior politician, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has dared challenge the power of the 31,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which pours a third of the $22 million it collects each year in membership dues into political action committees.

I suppose this is also why the Commonwealth of Massachusetts spent more of your tax dollars on prisons than higher education this year. Doesn't sound like a good investment to me.


The good news is my car started right away after having again been sitting idle in the parking lot through the last arctic blast. The new system at the DMV is astoundingly efficient and I got across the construction on the Coolidge bridge and through the whole process within an hour. They didn't even holler at me for being two weeks late in renewing. The bad news is that once again, I am stuck with a driver's license that makes me look like a lunatic. I would rather be arrested than even show it to a cop. You would think with the amount of money I spend on conditioner every month that at least my hair would have looked better. Next lifetime, I want to be photogenic.


I have a busy day and won't be able to post again until later tonight, however I saw this piece on the downside of get-tough on crime policy in the Massachusetts prison system this morning.

Maybe it was a reaction to the Willie Horton debacle but our Commonwealth is noted to have one of the toughest prison systems in the country. The article notes the danger of keeping inmates incarcerated for the maximum amount of time on their sentence.

Corrections specialists worry that the state’s return to a get-tough prison system has a dangerous side effect: inmates convicted of violent crimes are increasingly serving out sentences before being released without parole or supervision.

Many quickly re-offend. State Department of Correction data show that more than 4,000 inmates serving time for violent crimes or sex offenses in maximum- and medium-security prisons have been discharged since 1995 without the parole restrictions of the past.

The numbers are somewhat alarming.

Of violent criminals and sexual offenders discharged from maximum- and medium-security prisons between 1995 and 1997, 21 percent were sent back to jail for subsequent violent crimes and sex offenses within three years of their release.

This is not a problem to be taken lightly.

"This is the single most underrated public safety issue facing us today," said Michael A. Pomarole, former chairman of the Massachusetts Parole Board and now a district court judge.

And let me remind you one more time that strict incarceration policies are not cost efficient. The article notes, "Massachusetts expects to spend about $45,670 per inmate this year." I don't think it's money well spent.

Sunday, January 25, 2004


Prison reform seems to be on everyone's mind lately. DRC Net reports a study by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission found the state could save $30 million a year if nonviolent drug offenders were sent to treatment instead of prison. The study attributed the bloated prison population to the War on Some Drugs and mandatory sentencing.

That decision was only one of many that led to "a combination of intended and unintended consequences" for drug warriors and the state budget, the report said. "In addition, reductions in treatment resources at both the state and local levels have contributed to a growing number of drug offenders recycling through our criminal justice system," the report noted.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, the Governor unveiled a plan that would put more drug offenders in treatment and fewer in prison. The plan would also expand the state's drug treatment complex and fledgling drug court system, and it could put a hold on opening a new 1,000-bed prison under construction in Elliot County.

Of course these measures are being proposed across the US for budgetary reasons and not out of concern for the prisoner's plight, but I'll take reform any way I can get it and the savings make a compelling argument. With nearly 12,000 prisoners jailed at a cost of $17,200 each a year and treatment costs coming in at $5,000 per annum, Lt. Governor Pence states the obvious, "...treatment is more effective and cheaper than prison."

It's certainly more humane. Drug Sense Weekly sends in a piece on filthy and cramped conditions in the Glacier County Jail. Prison officials attribute the over-crowding to the growing numbers of meth addicted offenders.

...three female prisoners spent the night in a cell so small they had to take turns leaving their beds to stand.

Upstairs, 14 male prisoners endured the sharp smell of human waste while cramped in a filthy cell designed for eight.

My guess is, the first thing these low level offenders will do on release is go out and do some more drugs, to help them forget the inhumane treatment they were subjected to.

The meth problem is of growing concern and I attribute its rise directly to this administration's having focused their resources almost solely on marijuana. By suppressing the cannabis demand, they merely drove the poor consumer into using cheaper and easier to obtain chemical drugs that are much more destructive than a simple dried plant.

And people do get really addicted to meth. Drug Sense posts this article on women being locked up at a rate that's outpacing men in Hawaii, and their charges stem mostly from drug problems. Many of those are meth addicts. Thirty years ago, there were few women in jail, the current population numbers some 600. Sixty of those were shipped to Oklahoma, far from family contact, because of over-crowding.

Treating prisoners like animals is not 'tough on crime', it's 'dumb on crime'. How are we to expect them to behave when they get out after being treated so callously? Charging inmates even a token amount for inadequate facilities, and banning a magazine because it contains an advertisement that would save them money on phone calls to their family, will not contribute to their return to a productive life.

It's long past time for civil society to take a hard look at our current model of correction by punishment and put real rehabilitation programs back into the system.


TChris is guest-hosting at Talk Left and posted a great editorial by one of the best on the bench, Federal District Court Judge Nancy Gertner. I can't claim to know her well, however I did deal with her back when she was still a practicing attorney and have been following her rise through the judicial hierarchy ever since. She's been a wise and courageous jurist and I would love to see her fill the next vacancy on the First Circuit.

Her editorial addresses Bush's proposal to increase the funding for programs designed to assist inmates in re-entering private life. Judge Gertner notes the thought is laudable but the current policies offer too little, too late.

I have seen the impact of imprisonment on the human beings I sentence. As a federal judge, I take pains to monitor these men and women after their release from prison. I visit the programs that our Probation Office uses for ex-offenders to support their efforts to restart their lives.

She notes retraining is a difficult task, made almost impossible by mandatory minimum sentencing and BoP's policy on releasing the inmates into the programs such as half-way houses.

The problem is that the policies our government has implemented, long before those prison gates are open, undermine a prisoner's opportunity for a second chance. Too many prisoners are serving sentences that are too long under conditions that are not remotely conducive to rehabilitation. We must change our approach long before reentry.

....Lengthy prison terms undermine an offender's chances for a meaningful life after prison. They destroy communities and decimate families that are already struggling, especially in our inner-cities. And from those decimated communities comes more crime.

....On Christmas Eve 2002, the Bureau of Prison announced that it would no longer place offenders who are six months before the end of their prison term to half-way houses; they now must wait until they have reached the last 10 percent of their terms, no matter how short a time that is. Nor would the bureau allow nonviolent offenders sentenced to short terms to be placed in the halfway houses either.

The halfway houses (which cost the taxpayer far less than keeping inmates caged) are now closing for lack of referrals and Bush wants to replace them with "faith based" groups. (I wonder if he means all those evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart that used to be on television?) The Honorable Judge suggests this is unlikely to bridge the gap.

In fact, talk of "reentry" seems to many to be a cruel joke in a society where the race to punish has made it next to impossible for ex-offenders to get public assistance or qualify for a host of government programs.

I think Bush is just paying lip service to the issue but I am glad he's addressing it. With well over two million people in some kind of prison, and close to half of those in the federal system being non-violent offenders, prison reform that allowed their release would spike the unemployment rolls. Better social services while they're incarcerated could solve that problem.


As promised, I have perused the Koufax award finalists and cast my ballot. The nominated bloggers I know here are all great, so if you're interested in what makes a blog good, check out the candidates. I'll be going back and checking some new ones myself later. The site's a little slow right now, I expect because a lot of the finalists have linked to it.

In any event, being new in the blogosphere myself, I only voted in the categories where I had read enough of the nominees' work to make a fair choice:

Best Blog - Talk Left

Best writing - Calpundit

Best Single Issue Blog - Talk Left

Best Group Blog - Daily Kos

Most Humorous Post - Nicotrol For Right Wing Blog Addicts by The Mighty Reason Man of Very Very Happy. I've just discovered this blog here recently. He's a little profane but I love his acerbic wit, and this particular post was hysterical. You may have to know the blogs he parodies to appreciate it though.

Most Deserving of Wider Recognition - Slacktivist. Another new blog I found at Wampum that I check regularly.

Best Expert Blog - Talk Left

Best Non-Liberal Blog - The Volokh Conspiracy

If you prefer to vote by email, Talk Left has the links.


I'm just cruising the news before I turn in tonight and I see that the Koufax award finalists have been announced. As expected, Last One Speaks did not make the cut but I'm still completely blown away that we ever even made the list. I want to thank my friends who voted for me and a special thanks to my sister Annie, who I know took the time to look at every other nominated blog before she voted for mine.

I didn't know anything about Wampum before this award thing happened but I've since put them on my regular read list. They post on a wide range of serious subjects but also recently published one of the funniest pieces I've read in a while. For those of you also battling the latest dismal arctic assaults, Weather in Maine may cheer you up. [click on this one Michael]

Meanwhile, Talk Left did deservedly make the cut for the Koufax and is still up for an award in three categories. I'll definitely be voting for TL and will post my other endorsements later today.

Looking outside the blogosphere, maybe it's just me, but this sounds like a really boring party.

Sir Bill Gates? And I had forgotten Daddy Bush had been knighted. This is not your father's Camelot.

And this is not your father's military. At least it appears they won't be reinstituting the draft.

Yet another reason to boycott Walmart.

Oh no, I haven't been there in years but I loved that it was there. The Bottom Line in NYC is closing. End of an era.

And finally 672 skydivers from 43 countries set a world record over the skies of Bangkok for the queen's birthday. If my life had worked out differently in 1990, I might have been one of them.

Saturday, January 24, 2004


It's so cold here that walking to the corner for the newspaper was painful. The wind chill is so intense that within fifteen seconds you get what people around here call an ice cream headache. I expect it's that cold in New Hampshire as well, but someone lit a fire under the Kerry camp in less than 20 hours and I have a feeling that Ben Masel lit the match.

He just checked in with this update. The lovely supermoderator, Sarah, has reactivated the drug war thread on the forum at the campaign's website. I like that she reconsidered what I thought was a hasty decision and reopened the debate on an issue critical to the well-being of civil society. As a matter of fact, now that the thread is open, I guess I'll go over and register my opinion as well.

I encourage you all to do the same. It occurs to me that even as the candidates have been slow to recognize the power of the internet community, so have the activists been slow to access this avenue to shaping the debate. In an election year where the candidates and their constituencies are so accessible via these forums, we could be making our arguments to them directly.

I took some time today to update the template a little. Blogger emailed me about a new site feed, so I installed it and edited the header while I was at it. The sub-title now reads Voices, instead of A Voice, to better reflect the collective nature of the content. And since I'm in this tidying up mode today, I have a few odd items I've been holding for a while that I don't you to miss.

I took a moment to send NORML's automated letter to CBS regarding the Superbowl ads that we spoke of here earlier.

The pre-written letter is fine, but I deleted it entirely and wrote my own. It still only took a few minutes and they send it to CBS and also to a wide range of media outlets in your area. It felt very satisfying to know I had reached that many people with so little effort. Try it.

Ann Harrison posted a story at Alternet offering her usual in-depth reportage on the two California medical marijuana patients that were arrested in the courtroom by the feds, moments after having state charges dismissed.

In Washington state, Monica Ginn says she grows marijuana for medical uses, but she wasn't allowed to use that defense at her trial on drug charges. An all too common occurrence in the federal government's continuing war on non-violent, middle-aged cannabis consumers. Not surprisingly, without the ability to present a defense, she was subsequently found guilty.

Wired reports on a growing Tokin' Resistance in support of Tommy Chong. Also a non-violent middle aged man, I might add.

Mark Kleiman finally said something I absolutely agreed with on the shutdown of a government sponsored data collection program called Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM).

And last, but far from least, Barry Crimmins responds to the 2004 SOTU Address, sentence by sentence. Crimmins political quips run far beyond just the drug war, but I leave you with his answer to this remark George W made in defense of the Patriot Act.

GWB: For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists.

Terrorists aren't criminals?

Oh yeah and the War on Drugs has been every bit as effective at interdicting drugs as the war on terror has been at eliminating terrorism. And goodness knows had the war on embezzlement ever even taken place, you'd have had many fewer dollars in your campaign chest

Oh, and if you read the whole thing, Barry refers to this lockdown. Here's the link to another reason to boycott Walmart.


Kerry's campaign is not the only one trying to shut down the debate on drug policy reform (see post below). Daniel Forbes reports that Sen. John Edwards' staffers used "bully boy tactics" against activists in New Hampshire.

They singled out one activist in particular. They recognized him.

...Aaron Houston, who clutched a recorder in his hand throughout. The sole paid staffer of Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, Houston has been bird-dogging the Democratic candidates since last summer, praising those accepting - or even open-minded - on medical cannabis, damning those who are not. He's paid by the Washington-based lobby group, the Marijuana Policy Project. On January 13th, Houston and a colleague attended a publicly announced campaign appearance by Sen. John Edwards at Exeter Town Hall.

It hardly sounds as if Houston was agitating.

As a hundred-odd citizens milled nosily around the meeting room prior to the event - Edwards not yet in the building, nothing emanating from the podium - Houston passed out his single sheet castigating Edwards' stance endorsing the current federal raids on medical marijuana. Stopping them now would be "irresponsible" Edwards has said, and GSMM links him with Attorney General John Ashcroft as "both want[ing] to arrest cancer patients."

Houston maintains he was leafleting in low-keyed fashion; if anyone queried him, he said he simply replied, ask the senator about his position and moved on. The Edwards staffers were similarly distributing literature.

Aaron was surrounded and one staffer attempted to rip the literature out of his hand. They called the police. Despite the whole exchange having been recorded, the Edwards' campaign is declining to comment. I don't suppose they have an excuse for such bad manners much less for suppressing First Amendment freedoms.

Already, anyone but Bush is winning in the polls. So I urge you, in light of these disturbing developments among the Democratic front-runners, to support Kucinich all the way to Boston. He is the only candidate to address the failure of the drug war honestly and his continued presence in the race amplifies the reform movement's voice.



I received a disturbing email today from Ben Masel. A relentless advocate for First Amendment rights and drug policy reform, he's been mixing it up on John Kerry's website forum. I don't consider it a good sign that super-moderator Sarah shut down a thread entitled, When Will War on Drugs End? She posts:

This forum exists for the purpose of communicating John Kerry's message with respect to electing him President.

This is NOT the place to rant about whether or not drugs should be legalized!

Thank you for understanding. If anyone continues to try to restart this topic, they will be placed on pre-mod status. This has gone on long enough!!

There were three active threads on the subject - all were locked down in conjunction with Sarah's threat. Perhaps someone should remind her that the word forum implies a venue to exchange opinions and the level of comment would indicate an interest in the issue among the voters.

I've said this before, don't discount the effect the anti-prohibition movement will have on this race. Whether the candidates like it or not, this issue will be 'bird-dogging' them all the way to Boston.

Friday, January 23, 2004


It seems to be my week for funny videos. Just discovered this hilarious satire on the Molson grow bust in Barrie, (archived at Pot TV) in the in-box. If you don't know the back story, read our earlier coverage here, and here. I actually wiped away tears of laughter at the end of that seven minutes, and as Art Linkletter used to say, "Laughter is the best medicine." It cured what ailed me tonight. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Link thanks to Drug Sense Weekly.


Thanks to Jules Siegel for unearthing this gem, Detective ruled too cute in drug bust. A Broward Circuit Court judge dismissed a criminal charge against a West Palm Beach man charged with selling drugs during an undercover sting at a gay nightclub in Fort Lauderdale, ruling Detective Mike Nahum is too good looking.

Judge Susan Lebow ruled the defendant, Julio Blanco, was lured by the police officer into committing a crime in hopes he would be rewarded with sex.

On Wednesday, an appeals court backed the trial judge's decision and ruled the police officer's actions were so "outrageous" that it was entrapment. Blanco had never been arrested before and was not under any suspicion of criminal activity until he was talked into it by law enforcement, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.

Unfortunately, we won't be able to make our own judgment on the issue, since Nahum is not be photographed because he still is working undercover. We'll have to depend on the defense attorney's description.

Blanco's attorney, Kevin Kulik, spoke up to ensure the transcript would accurately reflect Nahum's macho, muscular appearance. "For the record, I would submit he was about 6' 2". He was in good shape, you know, a fit individual, young detective, looked to be maybe 30."

Nahum shouldn't feel too badly about it, he's probably the first detective in the US to have been declared attractive by a finding of the court.

You have to love it. I wonder how many attorneys will now be citing this case in entrapment defenses?

Thursday, January 22, 2004


By sheer happenstance, I saw the most astonishing video on MSNBC tonight. I don't often watch TV news, and I clicked in for no apparent reason. I see our boy George W asking in a manner worthy of the surliest of underpaid fast food servers, "How may I serve you?"

What was Rove thinking? His boy has been completely insulated from the public for three years and he thinks he can counter the "Kerry hugging the man he saved in the Nam advantage" by dressing W up in denim and throwing him into a local blue collar joint?

There was Bush, behind the cash register, obviously confused by unscripted questions and desperately clutching the shoulder of the owner, who at one point was almost visibly struggling to get away, while he delivered a snippy lecture on the economy and how these folks out there (that were unseen) were making all this money and not spending it, and denying this woman and her staff a decent living and not tipping well either.

It was appalling. At the moment when he gripped her shoulder and wouldn't let her leave, she flinched like someone caught in the grasp of a deranged person and then realizing the camera caught her, forces a smile and assumed a good camera angle. Her relief at escape was almost palpable.

He immediately clutched the shoulder of the next scripted person, a regular clerk and repeated the same sort of remarks. It was painful to watch. Nothing went to script and by the end even George knew he blew it.

The segment noted that this was just the customary awkward banter among Bush and the White House press corps. I expect that's true enough. It felt like a inside joke to me but I don't think it played well in Peoria. The viewers who believed Karl's war spin, won't make that distinction. On video it looked like he was talking to the average man in line at the local fast food joint. I think he insulted some core voters in that little fiasco.

As much as I hate to take pleasure in other's misfortune, I loved seeing our peerless misleader caught in such an unmediated moment. Even Rumpelstiltskin couldn't spin this one into gold for him. The name of the piece was Got Ribs?

After watching this and the following story on Kerry and the the Vietnam guy, on the theme, Photo Op or Actual Act of Providence?, (I believe it's the latter), all of a sudden it feels like the mainstream press is finding the same spine they're reporting to have discovered in the Democratic party.

I hope some technogenius out there figures out how to find and save that video permanently, I couldn't find it at the site and I would love to have it for the archives.


This video reminds me of driving past a bad auto accident on the highway. You really don't want to see anything horrible, but you can't help but look. Thanks to EFF for providing the link to John Ashcroft Sings. Apparently he wrote this little ditty himself. Unfortunately I don't think he's going to get a good enough offer from Las Vegas to give up his day job.


Wednesday, January 21, 2004


There's been some discussion on the lists about Bush's claim that drug use had dropped by 11% among teenagers. For myself, I've seen a lot of polls and surveys that contradict each other and the way I figure it, if you could believe in the pollster's results, Dean would have won in Iowa. As always however, my pal Elmer Elevator has the definite word on this fallacy.

Pretend you've just been marched to the school cafeteria to take the Anonymous Student Drug Use Survey. Now check one:

12. If I say I use drugs on this survey,

A) absolutely nothing bad will happen to me
B) I will be praised and rewarded for my honesty
C) all kinds of really bad shit will probably happen to me

Survey designers and providers also know which side of their bread is buttered. They preferentially and intentionally design and return student surveys which hint to the School Board and the local newspapers that "we got trouble right here in River City!" because that pumps up the anti-drug political hysteria that keeps surveyors and drug testing labs and drug dog services in business.

And mathematical kind of guy that he is, Elmer also sums up the hidden cost of this policy.

Drug testing, as we've often noted here, shifts the pattern of student drug use from innocuous pot, which lingers in fat tissue for a month, to the fast-disappearing water-soluble substances like heroin, cocaine and meth, snort it on Friday night, be drug-free (or dead) by Monday.

Good point don't you think? Doesn't add up to good policy to me either.


I wasn't planning to watch the State of the Union Address anyway, I really do get physically ill when I even listen to Bush for too long. Fortunately Pete at Drug War Rant has a stronger constitution and posted a great analysis of our King of the Quagmire's remarks on drug war policy. As always, he voices nearly my exact thoughts.

Education programs like D.A.R.E. which don't work and others which insult the intelligence of kids. Treatment slots wasted on non-addicted marijuana users who are referred by schools and criminal justice, while hard drug addicts are turned away. And law enforcement that has demonstrated major corruption while leading us to being the most incarcerated country on the planet.

I find it somewhat uncanny that whenever I get bogged down in my personal quagmires, Pete posts what I wanted to say. Read the whole thing.

And while you're there, read his posts on First marijuana overdose? and The Demonized Seed. Both stories worth reading and Pete always deconstructs the spin, pro or con equally well.

And of course, I stand with Drug War Rant in continued support of Dennis Kucinich. It's still a long road to Boston and Dennis' courageous stance on cannabis has brought the issue into the national debate. Check out Pete's take on the shape of the race in New Hampshire. He also has a link to the MPP ads that are reported to be airing there.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


I'm becoming accustomed to my new piece of high tech kitchenware and I have to say that sensor reheat has changed my life - you don't have to stir in the middle. One button cooking rocks. It feels like being awakened from suspended culinary animation. I'm getting to really like this fancy nuker, it's twice as fast, the food doesn't spit and the plates don't get too hot. This is technology I'm glad to have.

However, technology I'm not so happy about came up in the news today, Cops Use GPS Device to Nab Texas Fugitive. My recollection was that the courts allowed law enforcement authorities to use this form of interdiction only against terrorists. Apparently not, as this guy was just a run of the mill con man skipping out on a seven year sentence.

DALLAS - Federal marshals were bringing a fugitive con man back to Texas this weekend from Dillon, Mont., where they ended his flight toward the Canadian border.

Finding 64-year-old Bobbie McCoy Burress was easy: They just had the rental company switch on the global positioning device in his rented car.

"They turned on the device and located the guy in Montana," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Spencer. "If he had made it to Canada, it would have made it much more difficult."

Not more difficult to find him but to extradite him. It's not hard to imagine the current administration using this tactic to track political dissenters as well.

And while we're on the subject of microwave tracking, I been holding this disturbing piece on the new surveillance society, Parents spy on teens by phone. In the tradition of Little Linzy, the drug testing teenager who believes Big Brother should start at home, Patrick O'Neil, youth reporter has more good news for parents who prefer intimidation to conversation.

PARENTS will be able to track their teenagers 24 hours a day using secret bounce-back SMS messages.

Parents using the "text track" technology get a return SMS instantly revealing their child's location. Teens will have no idea when their parents have done a check-up.

In the UK, setting it up costs less than $100.

After setup, for a mere fifty-five cents per check:

Parents can set up a zone around their wayward child's school or banned boyfriend's house. If the teenager leaves or enters the zone, an alarm is triggered and an SMS alert is instantly sent to parents.

Is it just me or does this seem like a bad way to raise kids? Schools bring in cops and dogs to intimidate them from using drugs and parents use electronic leashes instead of teaching them to make responsible choices and trusting them to do it. I'm no Luddite, but it seems to me that not all progress is good.

Monday, January 19, 2004


Freedom Sight is fast becoming one of my favorite blogs. Jeb is my kind of civil libertarian. He has an excellent post up on the prosecution of pain management physicians in Florida under the aegis of the war on drugs.

The ranks of drug policy reformers swells with this newly persecuted class of civil society and their professional organizations are increasing going public with their criticism of these ill-conceived strategies to combat drug abuse.

The Pain Relief Network Joining The National Physician and Patient Advocacy Groups and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons are all condemning the war on drugs as it's playing out in Florida.

The truly absurd aspect of the DEA's campaign against the appropriate practice of pain management is that the doctor's are mandated by their licensing agencies to prescribe the proper levels of medication and the DEA is then prosecuting them for fulfilling that requirement. As a result it's easier to find a dermatologist than it is a family physician.

Jeb doesn't often address the war on drugs at Freedom Sight but when he does, he's right on target.

When the war on (some) drugs turns into a war on doctors, will it be enough to make people understand the dangers of zealotry? It's exactly this kind of thinking that has caused the increase in all manner of stupid laws and policies which, in effect, punish all of us for the actions of the few who commit real offenses. We see this in cases such as zero-tolerance policies in schools, where students are disciplined for possessing over-the-counter pain, cold, or allergy medicine. We see it when law abiding citizens are deprived their right to keep and bear arms because of the actions of criminals. And now we're seeing it where doctors are discouraged from providing necessary care for those suffering from chronic, debilitating pain, because some prosecutors apparently can't tell the difference between someone suffering from cancer, and a junkie.

I agree. It's the DEA and its lackeys who should be prosecuted for criminal interference in the practice of medicine.


Iowa caucus night and it's early but it looks like an upset so far. CNN is already grilling Dean on why his poll numbers didn't play out.

I would be surprised except I've been predicting this privately for well over a year. On August 6, 2003 I sent this email to one of Kerry's junior speech writers.

...I think your man has a good chance but I think Dennis does too. Dean I think has built his mo' way too soon and will crash and burn...

On January 1, 2004 I posted the same prediction here.

I think 04 will be the most interesting election season we've seen in decades. I'm not going to post this on Tim Blair but my prediction for this race is that an unprecedented surge of reactivated 60s liberals and newly registered young voters will sweep Bush and his cronies unequivocally out of office. And I'm still predicting the Dean campaign will crash and burn before he gets to Boston. I'm not sure who I think will lead us to this victory but it won't be Dean.

The early results would seem to indicate Al Giordano at Big Left Outside was right about Kerry all along and as far as I know he was the only one saying it. I was hoping Kucinich would be the usurper but I'm happy to see that Dennis' support was strong enough to have an effect in shaping the course of events nonetheless.

The lesson to be learned here I think is, don't trust the pollster's numbers. As the town treasurer once said at the annual Cummington town meeting, "You can cook the books any way you like, but there just ain't no money in the bank."


NORML has this action alert up on its website, CBS Plans To Run Anti-Marijuana Ads During The Super Bowl, (again). I'm sure you remember these ridiculous ONDCP ads from last year's game. The same ads that recently resulted in indictments for defrauding the government being handed down against two of Ogilvy & Mather's executives in connection with overbilling for them. Yes, the same ads that cost the US taxpayers almost 2 billion dollars and were not only proven ineffective but may have actually increased drug use among their target audience.

This year NORML is encouraging CBS to reject these ads by persuading the network to abide by it's stated policy of not running ads on "controversial issues of public importance."

A reasonable request considering:

Recently, CBS cited this official policy to deny airing an advertisement sponsored by the advocacy organization, which criticized President Bush's $1 trillion deficit.

Unfortunately, it appears CBS only applies the policy to those issues it (read that the Bush administration) disagrees with.

...the network accepted a Super Bowl ad that discourages tobacco smoking and one from the American Legacy Foundation encouraging "lifestyle choices" for teenagers, in addition to the ONDCP anti-marijuana ads.

Let CBS know you are aware of this hypocrisy and you will not let it pass unremarked. NORML has a prewritten letter on the site that you can send in a few clicks. Just enter your zip code in the take action now box. Let the station know you are watching what they do but you will not be viewing their programming unless they apply their policy equally.