Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

I'm off for a couple of hours to help pass out candy at the family homestead since I'm unlikely to get any trick or treaters here. Have a great holiday. I expect to back later.

Update: If cuteness was fatal, I would be dead. I arrived the homestead and the tyke was decked out in a Tigger costume, and was dancing in the kitchen to the new toy - Leap Frog singing magnetic letters. The whole business sticks to the fridge and there's this box that holds one letter. If you press on the letter, it talks about the sound, but there's another button that plays the alphabet song. He kept pressing the song and danced up a storm and then waited for the applause. And he's got rythum. His mom hates when I say this, but I swear he's going to be a performer of some kind.

There were lots of trick or treaters and they were mostly little so it was an early rush. Mom and Dad took the tyke out to a few houses in the hood so he could experience the excitement and I stayed in and passed out candy. The kids in their little costumes were just darling.

I got back in time to get one group at home as well. They were a little weird. The kids were sweet but the designated father figure, also carried his own bucket. I of course didn't have any candy here, but fortunately had a baggie full of quarters. I gave them all fifty cents. The tiniest one looked a little confused by that. I felt bad I didn't have something more colorful to give him.

It wasn't like being on Prospect with the girls. They had the best neighborhood for trick or treaters I've ever seen, but it was a good Halloween. I had fun.

Double jeopardy

I've been remiss in posting this. Formerly the blogger behind decrimwatch, our own, Steven Young has a powerful and articulate piece in the Chicago Reader. It's a pdf, so I'm not going to excerpt. And it's not about drug policy but I urge you to read it in full anyway.

It's a hard look at an ex-con who made a bad mistake. He murdered a 17 year old acquaintance when he was 20, during a botched robbery. He paid his debt to society and he turned his life around but the system turned on him and forced him to register as a sex offender, even though there nothing sexual about the crime. He's listed as a child predator.

It seems to me that this does the community no good in terms of safety and it certainly doesn't facilitate this man's reentry into society. Meanwhile his old homies are still dealing drugs and making tons of money, while he's struggling at an $100 a week apprenticeship because it was the only place that would hire him on account of being registered. A powerful temptation, that he's managed so far to resist. But how much easier would it be for him to go back to his old life?

You can have too many laws - this would clearly be one of them.

O! Water Hot is a noble thing! - Tolkien

My hot water heater went out yesterday. A real drag for the circulation challenged. Without a hot shower, my extremities never quite warm up. My hands were so cold today while I was waiting for the plumber to be done that I could barely type. I couldn't turn the heat on because they had the door open. And then of course I had to wait for the water to get hot again.

Even though it was only one day, I can't begin to tell you how glorious it was to turn on the tap and find aqua caliente. This from Tolkien's bath song, will have to do.
O! Water cold we may pour at need
Down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
But better is Beer, if drink we lack,
And Water Hot poured down the back.

Indeed. I have a new sympathy for all those hurricane victims who haven't had a shower in a week.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Marc Emery on extradition

Another good profile piece on Marc Emery in The Concordian. You can only get half of it for free so here's some excerpts from the rest.

The US Drug Enforcement Agency has given him the title of "kingpin" and claims he is the most important international drug trafficker in Canada, and one of the top 46 in the world. This title is more than a media catchword though, though he could receive the death penalty in the US under the Drug Kingpin legislation first enacted in 1988.

Emery thinks that if he gets extradited, no one in Canada will see him alive again. He explained that the DEA is painting such an ugly picture of him because they are afraid of him.

"They are afraid of my ability to speak and my ability to organize and get the media to pay attention," he says.

Emery believes the DEA would be in trouble if Canada ended Marijuana prohibition because they might have to follow suit. He thinks that the DEA would be unable to keep Americans from coming north for their marijuana, or from that reefer making its way south. This could then result in the DEA having its budget cut, and the same people that have been watching him would be out of jobs.
The DEA has already admitted in their press release that they arrested Marc for political reasons. This is further evidenced by the fact that several other seed vendors in Vancouver continue to operate and saw a influx of new customers when Marc was busted. Of course, none of them are Americans.

One of the vendors explains why the DEA's contention that Marc was facilitating huge grow-ops is so flawed.
He also explained why seeds would not be a good investment for large commercial grow operations such as the ones the DEA is accusing Emery of helping. He said large grow rooms could technically use seeds, but without the uniformity of clones, growers would make less money and take longer growing.
Not to mention the expense. Marc's seeds were not cheap. A big operation simply wouldn't buy seeds that way, even if they were growing from seed. Marc's US customers were clearly small time ops that probably grew only for themselves and maybe their friends in order to avoid the black market.

Once again, the DEA makes the world more profitable for black market dealers thus protecting their own prohibition based employment.

Media Alert

Norm Stampler of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition will be on CNN's “In The Money” today at 3:00 to talk about his drug policy positions.

Big tobacco withholds safe "cigarette"

This is interesting. It seems Phillip Morris developed an inhaler over a dozen years ago that could deliver nicotine safely, thus preventing many unnecessary deaths but failed to bring it to market because (a) they were denying that nicotine was addictive at the time they began R&D and (b) they were afraid the device would cut into their market for cigarette addicts. They're now trying to market the device as a medical delivery system for medicines.

First rule of the corporatocracy. Protect the profit margin above all else. This is why I have to laugh sardonically when people tell me we can trust the corporations to do what's best for the public, if only we would give them free rein in the so called free market.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Debating prison statistics

Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run picks up on a DRC Net post on the new Bureau of Justice report that indicates "drug offenders accounted for about 25 percent of jail inmates, 21 percent of state prison inmates, and 55 percent of federal prison inmates."

The post itself doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know, but the comment section is lively. I was inspired to leave a somewhat lengthy screed there myself, in response to the DA who attempted to discount the numbers. It's not too late to join in the discussion.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Loretta Nall's bumper sticker is really hot, don't you think? Get yours here. All proceeds benefit the Nall for Governor campaign.

Help a grass roots campaign get off the ground and of course if you live in Alabama, vote for Nall Y'all.

DEA takes down another doctor

A really good LTE in a small newspaper from a rural town in NY state.
Dr. James Latimer's Madrid practice will be closed as a result of allegations by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the refusal of acting District Attorney Gary Miles to except any result other than the surrender of Dr. Latimer's medical license.
As the writer points out, the doctor has been working at an honest practice and serving his community with long hours out of professional concern and not for financial gain. He has many options where he could making more money for less work. Are we to believe to believe the DEA's contention that this man is a drug kingpin?

The laws and the trial system for these erroneous charges are skewed to the DEA's benefit and the only practical option for a doctor in this plight is to shut down his practice. The doctor suffers inconvenience of course but it's the innocent patients who will suffer from the lack of pain practitioners, who pay the greater price. How does that benefit society?

Update: The doctor's colleagues largely agree that he should not have been prosecuted. The article also notes the good doctor had about 4,000 patients, many of whom did not have insurance. He saw them anyway. Not too many private doctors that dedicated to their practice these days.

[hat tip to JackL]

Sue the bastards

Radley already covered this recently but it's just filtering down to me and it's worth a mention that two women have filed suit against Northwest Drug Task Force agents.
According to the complaint, the women were mistreated, threatened, cursed at and terrorized during the raid by "three men dressed entirely in black with black hoods over their faces."

"At no point did any of these individuals identify themselves as law enforcement officers or members of the Northwest Drug Task Force," the lawsuit alleges.
That's bad enough but one doubts they would have filed except that they were completely innocent victims of these over-zealous prohibition profiteers. No charges have been filed since this terrorist incident occurred on July 29, 2003.

This is just another symptom of forfeiture fever. The police get to keep the seized assets but they can't spend them on say, putting more cops on the street to prevent real crime, but must use them for equipment and such. So now every podunk town is equipped for SWAT team raids. In Montana, the population averages 6.2 people per sq. mile, and the population of the entire county where the raid occurred is 10,227, spread over 2,790 sq. miles, dropping the density to 4 people per sq. mile.

You wouldn't think there would be enough crime sufficiently serious to require the use of masked men in SWAT suits in such a low density area. You would be right but since they have all this stuff, they're going to use it, as they did here - busting into the home of two women in the middle of the night. Even if they were guilty of possessing a few plants, this would seem to be a situation where ordinary uniformed cops could have made the bust in the light of day.

It's even more egregious that this addledbrained raid was made on innocent Americans. I hope the judge throws the book at them but I'm not holding my breath. Justice is so seldom served in these matters.

[hat tip to JackL]

DEA appoints a new leader to head New England office

Well how about that. The DEA is an equal opportunity employer.
New England's Newest Weapon In The War On Drugs Is June Stansbury, The Only African-American Woman To Head Up A DEA Field Division.

...A native of Detroit, Stansbury planned to be a social worker but switched her college major to criminal justice to avoid a thorny economics class.
I guess that would explain this remark.
What frustrates her is the continued demand for illegal drugs. "No matter how many we arrest," she says, "if people continue to make the decision to use drugs, other dealers will continue to fill the void."
Yes June, they will because they can make so much freaking money by dealing in the black market. Maybe she should have taken that economics class anyway. And they wonder why they can't make prohibition work. Unbelievable.

[hat tip to JackL]

Friday, October 28, 2005

I believe in oracles

India's astrologers say much of the natural turmoil going on around earth right now is a result of Mars sitting in the house of Aires for six months instead of the usual 45 days. I kind of like the explanation myself. I've always loved a planetary answer for the chaos in my life.

Now I don't know a conjunction from an oppostion, much less understand the charts, but I had a co-worker once who was really good at it. I would say, "Mariah, I hate my life. It sucks." And she would tell me it was because it's Mercury retrograde and I had these planets in bad houses. Then she would tell me when it was going to change and get better. She was often right.

Hey, it's as much a science as "Intelligent" Design. The astrologers should be litigating to get their hypothesis into the textbooks. If they're serious about teaching the children all sides of the debate, the IDers should be writing amicus briefs to include the astrologers.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Steal this meme

Speaking of thehim, he posts a fun meme that I'm going to steal.

1. Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

I'm skipping instruction five about the tagging thing. I not that fond of the concept. It's too much like a chain letter to me. I'm just stealing it. If you like it, steal from me and pass it on. Here's my sentence.



The blog has gone through a lot of changes since then, but that much is still true.

Kossacks on pot

It's good to hear from Ben Masel, who checks in from a Kos watch. When I was posting there a couple of years ago, that crowd wasn't very receptive to drug policy reform. It's good to see their views tempered. I have a feeling thehim had something to do with it, as he posts some excellent drug war roundups there, but here's two more from other Kossacks. They both have polls at the end.

Marijuana can prevent lung cancer. Poll here to legalize marijuana leading by 92%.

Of course there are always naysayers. This poster just knows it's bad for you, being a credentialled pundit I guess. His snarky poll is also carried by the pro-pot vote. 87% said it should not remain illegal for a number of reasons.

Considering how many thousands of people read Kos, snaring under 800 voters on the poll isn't exactly a turning point, but still it's sign of progress. I'm glad to see the interest growing.

Free books

Late posting today. I had to work this morning and got caught up in politics this afternoon. This is a sad piece to start with. The Centre for Drug Research in Amsterdam is being shut down after many years of providing significant research. I'm sorry to hear this news. It feels like a great loss.

I met Peter Cohen and heard him speak at DPA conference a couple of years ago. He's a brilliant scientist and a charming man. It's not clear why the Centre is closing, but one hopes it's not on account of political pressure.

The only bright note here is you can order their books and publications for free. I wouldn't hestitate to recommend the quality of their work.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Marc Emery battles on

Good piece in the Seattle Times on Marc's case. Not much new information, but it's a good profile. Here's a couple of quotes.
Emery said he is happy to become a martyr for the movement. He thanks the DEA for the heightened exposure, because he says he's suddenly become relevant to people who don't smoke marijuana.

"Now I'm meeting a lot of people, including very old people, who are alarmed about the sovereignty of this country," Emery said. "But also Americans who are just shocked by the potential prison sentence I might get."
Whatever he's done, he's clearly not a danger to society and the US should stop wasting tax dollars chasing after political activists.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Late day links

Haven't done a daily read roundup in a while. Here's what's cooking.

Scott has a great plate of links at Grits including an interesting theory on how the hurricanes and scandals may doom Texas task forces forever.

Just go over and read Pete. He has a bunch of important stuff I missed.

Same for Loretta who has a lot about the creepy Red Ribbon weeks they have in the south to raise drug awareness in the schools.

And check out Dr. Tom taking on the SF Chronicle.

Afghan drug lord extradited to US for trial

Politics and the war on some drugs blend today with this news and I have to say I'm disappointed in the WaPo for the misleading lede on this one.
A Taliban-linked man who allegedly sought to poison U.S. streets with millions of dollars of heroin in a deadly "American jihad" has become the first person extradited from Afghanistan to face federal charges, officials said Monday.
Sounds like he was planning to sell "poisoned" heroin, doesn't it? It's not until the end of the piece that this is cleared up.
According to the indictment, Mohammad told associates at his home in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1990 that selling heroin was a form of jihad, or Islamic struggle, because they were taking money from Americans while giving them something that was killing them.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia said drug dealers such as Mohammad seek "to destabilize Afghanistan's emerging democracy, flood the Western markets with heroin and use their profits to support the Taliban and other terrorist groups."
So in another words, he was an ordinary dealer, although perhaps a high level one for a change, who maybe was planning to ship direct to the US, although one doubts it when the traditional route goes through Russia and Europe.

As to this ridiculous contention that the guy's intent was to "destabilize Afghanistan's emerging democracy," perhaps no one told our genius AG that the economy of the entire country depends on the drug trafficking. Maybe we should reconstruct the infrastructure we destroyed - as we promised to do - so the Afghanis can form an alternate economy, before we start moralizing on the trafficking.

In any event, this is just a token bust. The heroin will still be flooding the streets of our cities, with or without this one scapegoat. And it will cost us millions of tax dollars to prosecute this case; all for some White House PR to show "progress" in "winning" their wars on drugs and terror.

Christian fundies infiltrate Canadian media

Don't watch this video if your outrage tolerance is low today. It's infuriating. I didn't make it all the way through myself.

It was aired on some Christian program in Canada, featuring the parents of the unfortunately slain RCMP officers who died in a shootout last year.
I commiserate with the families and understand their grief but they're clearly still stuck in the anger stage of grieving and it's clouded their judgment. They allowed themselves to be used as dupes for the Canadian version of the DEA. The dad of one of the cops could have been reading from a script written by John Walter's staff.

It seems to me he does his son a disservice by spouting already debunked lies about this incident in order to push an agenda for prohibitionists. His son's unfortunate death probably was a result of an inept justice system that allowed a known violent offender to be free on the streets, but it had nothing to do with marijuana laws or grow-ops and pushing enhanced penalities for that as a solution to crime will only make the problem worse. Seems a rather odd memorial to a man who gave his life to protect justice.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Fruit of the poison tree

Chalk one up against hippie profiling. These two kids got off on a 3lb marijuana bust because the cops lied about the pretext for the stop. They claimed the kid was on his cell phone and that's why they pulled him over. However technology works both ways and the cell phone records showed no calls on their phones during the time frame in question.

Suppression hearings are why you should never consent to a search. Know your rights in a stop. Check out the indispensable video Busted.

[hat tip to JackL]

Popular fiction - the ultimate propaganda

I've been meaning to post this one. There's been some discussion about whether this was a hoax but it appeared in a legit newspaper in Canada and the consensus seems to be that it's a true story.
It's a story sure to send a chill down the spine of the average American. A dastardly group of Balkan terrorists launches an attack on the United States by poisoning low-cost prescription drugs from Canada bought over the Internet by unsuspecting U.S. consumers.

...The novel, due to appear in December, received funding from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the most powerful lobbies in the United States, as the result of actions, it says, of a "rogue" employee.

According to one of the book's co-authors, Kenin Spivak, the goal was simply "to scare Americans into opposing any amendment to existing legislation" that formally bans the import of low-cost prescriptions from Canada. He said that the book's publisher, Phoenix Books, was paid an unspecified amount of money to publish the novel by the drug group, which also said it planned to buy 40,000 copies.
Amusingly, and this is the part that calls the veracity of the piece into question, Jason Blair of the NYT scandal fame, is said to have been the editor of the book. Like they said he's good with fiction.

The plot has undergone a rewrite in response to the unwanted publicity on the genesis of the book but it appears to be headed for publication.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

The economics of prohibition

I don't know quite what to make of this. It's pretty weird. I thought at first it might be a hoax of some kind but it checks out. This is really The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis' Annual Student Essay Contest. This year's subject is “What economic lessons can be drawn from this picture of an illegal drug deal?” And the background info is sensible.
As this picture illustrates, however, making a product illegal does not eliminate the market for it. The Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that Americans spent about $65 billion on illegal drugs in 2000, more than the amount spent on cigarettes. Worldwide, the drug business is worth about $400 billion. Drugs are also a big concern to politicians, with government spending an estimated $40 billion to $60 billion annually to fight the “war on drugs.”

Potential profits from selling drugs have led to violent crime in America’s inner cities and elsewhere, causing some to ask whether there is a better way to address the problem.

Some have proposed tougher enforcement. Others have suggested moving away from a criminal law strategy toward a public health approach, and still others have proposed legalizing drugs altogether.

These are emotionally charged and controversial issues, but perhaps by taking the cool view of an economist we can gain some perspective. Fundamental concepts, such as externalities, cost-benefit analysis and black market economics, can shed light on policies and individual behavior related to illegal drugs.
It strikes me as rather a brilliant topic presented in a fairly neutral light. I can't wait to read the winning essay.

[hat tip to JackL]

Monday, October 24, 2005

Free Richard Paey

Radley Balko writing for the National Review makes an eloquent defense of Richard Paey and calls for Jeb Bush to pardon the man. Radley also uncovers instances of retribution against Paey for having spoken with John Tierney of the NYT. Read it all but here's the money graf.
...Richard Paey is not a criminal. He isn't a threat to anyone. He's a tragic figure who has become a political prisoner of America's allegiance to zero-tolerance drug prohibition.

...Governor Bush should free Richard Paey. And Florida lawmakers should pass reforms to ensure that drug-war fanaticism no longer prevents sick people from getting the medication they need.
Advice all the governors and lawmakers in our country would do well to heed.

Souter gone mad on meth

Mark Souter's dunderheaded meth epidemic bill has now reached committee in the House. It would mandate 5 and 10 year sentences for possession of what would be a weekend's worth of meth for an addict. It's important to nip this one in the bud and DRC Net has the easy click and send letter.

I already sent mine but I modified it significantly this time because I want it to stand out of the astroturf. Let Price know I'm really paying attention. You don't need to edit of course but feel free to use mine if you like.
H.R. 3889 -- "The Methamphetamine Epidemic Elimination Act" -- is an irresponsible and ineffective bill that should not see the light of day in Congress. The ridiculously small amounts of the drug that would trigger 5 and 10 year sentences is in effect a strategy to jail addicts.

Neither society nor fiscal prudence is served by this proposal. The costs of prosecution and subsequent incarceration would far exceed the cost of expanded treatment programs and rehabilitative services. Do we want to spend our increasingly limited tax dollars on punishment policies that do not solve the problem and remove potential tax contributing citizens from the mainstream of society?

I think not and I urge to reject such an ill-advised policy and any other similarly short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible proposals in the future.
The main thing is to send the letter, even if you don't edit. It makes a difference.

What a great idea

Our friend Erin Hildebrandt is starting a book of the month club on her excellent policy reform website, Parents Ending Prohibition. This month's selection is "Under The Influence: The Disinformation Guide to Drugs", by our own Preston Peet of

They have a free listserv where the members will be discussing the book and other matters of import to parents trying to raise healthy children in our current political environment. Erin and her husband Bill are fabulous parents and articulate advocates. It's sure to be a lively and informative forum.

Women in prison

The Bureau of Justice Statistics issued a new report showing "7 percent of all inmates in state and federal prisons last year and accounted for nearly one in four arrests." Co-author, Paige M. Harrison, "linked an upswing in the rate of arrest for women to their increased participation in drug crimes, violent crimes and fraud."

This of course is nonsense. It's not that women are commiting more crimes. The crime rate is down. It's the enhanced sentencing and the predatory "tough on drugs" prosecutions that are filling our prisons. They're charging women with crimes that didn't exist before forfeiture fever infected the prohibition enforcers.

The Sentencing Project backs this up with the figures.
The group said the number of drug offenders in prisons and jails has risen from 40,000 in 1980 to more than 450,000 today. According to FBI figures, law officers in 2004 made more arrests for drug violations than for any other offense -- about 1.7 million arrests, or 12.5 percent of all arrests.

Those sentenced for drug offenses made up 55 percent of federal inmates in 2003, the report said.
We spend billions locking them up but it hasn't stopped the black market drug trade. It's probably the only business besides military hardware and private security services that's doing well in this economy. A regulated market could be contributing to the tax base instead of draining it of resources.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Day trippin'

The zoo was fabulous. It was a perfect fall day and it's a really nice zoo. It's sort of half botanical garden and the habitats were really pleasant. And it's big. We didn't see it all today but we got in a huge chunk and all the animals were hanging out close to the viewing areas. Big hit for the tyke was the elk who was just incredible. I've never seen a rack of antlers that big in my life. The gorilla came in a close second but I just felt kind of sad for the ape myself. He looked so bored but he woke up and interacted with us to the tyke's delight.

For myself, I was really excited by the rhino, I don't believe I've seen one that close before and the giraffes who for a moment I thought, might trot right up to the fence. The pair of lions on the way out was very cool as well.

It was Boo at the Zoo day and a lot of kids were dressed up, not to mention a few parents. We didn't dress the tyke although we brought the costume. He wasn't that into it and seemed unsurprised to see so many people dressed in odd clothing. I guess that might be because he hangs out with me so much.

Me, I loved all the little girls in their fairytale Princess outfits but my favorite was the family who came dressed up. The father and the young son dressed identically as some kind of knight and the mother and the two daughters were identically dressed as the Princess character in Alladin. The high point of the entertainment however, had to be the kid's karoke. A lot of parents and grandparents were singing as well and they were all doing nursery ryhmes and Disney songs. Winner hands down were the Japanese tourists accompanying their five year old on the Alphabet song.

Meanwhile, we walked miles today and I'm so out of shape I'm feeling it, so drug war news will have to wait one more day. The good news is I just discovered that I have the next three days off so we can rest up and catch up tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I'm a believer

I don't remember how many days it's been but the weather turned cold again and I was gone for 14 hours, came home in the dark and there wasn't one ant in the kitchen. I think the boric acid worked. Thanks for the help.

Meanwhile I'm fried and I have two more early calls. No saying what's going to happen tomorrow. We may be going to the zoo. I'll be back eventually.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Side notes

Well I'm finally feeling like I'm getting back to what passes for normal in my life. In fact I started feeling so much better last night that I invented a new food. I have to tell you, I've been feeling pretty left out of the food blogging thing. Everybody does it and I've never had a recipe to share, since as you know I live mostly on insta-dinners so I'm pretty proud of this one. I call it Taco Cheapo without the Drive. Take a flour tortilla. Put it on a microwave safe plate. Open a can of refried beans. Spread a substantial layer of beans over the tortilla, like you would a pizza. Open bag of shredded cheese and sprinkle liberally over the beans. Throw into nuker for one minute. Sprinkle with hot sauce to taste. Roll it up. Voila - instant Taco Bell burrito. (Don't laugh - in my house this is a major culinary acheivement.)

Meanwhile, I'm happy to report I haven't seen an ant in my kitchen since I spread the boric acid around. However, I still haven't found anywhere that sells borax so I can do the foundation around the outside of the house but I may break down and just spray the chemicals outside. I think the borax may be worse for the shrubs than the chemicals would be and I would hate to kill the azaelas and the spring bulbs.

I did see a wooly bear caterpillar yesterday when I was out with the tyke. Up north, the folk wisdom was that you could tell how hard the winter will be by how wide the black parts of the critter are. If that holds true here, then it's going to be a very mild winter. The little guy had the smallest black ends of any I've ever seen in my life. Of course it's hard to even imagine winter is on its way when the afternoons are still in the 80s. Still, it's clear the fall is here if only from the Halloween decorations. I love tacky lawn ornaments and there's some beauties around here. I was driving home at dusk the other night and there's a house near me that's lit up like a Christmas scene with rows of plastic ghosts and pumpkins and the entire house strung up with orange lights. The only one I saw that was better than that, was a small front yard that was entirely made over to look like a graveyard with huge spiderwebs and goblins hanging from the trees.

On another note, I totally overslept this morning. Forgot to turn on the alarm last night. I woke up 15 minutes before I needed to be here today and it's a six minute drive but that's the beauty of this job. I can arrive without even brushing my teeth because I don't see anyone but the tyke for the most part and I have an extra set of clothes and toiletries here. I'm learning to love a gig where you don't have to wear makeup and can show up in the same tshirt two days in a row.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Threatening fashion trend?

I don't know quite what to think of this. It started out as a political statement in Baltimore and maybe also as a sort of threat, but has since evolved into a popular fashion item for kids. It's a universal theme - don't snitch. Nobody likes a tattletale.

But to have them disrupt trials strikes me as somewhat bizarre. In one instance, the witness testifying for the prosecution was wearing the shirt, so it could hardly be construed as a threat although how the jury would have read it is hard to say. In any event, they ejected the witness and the charges were dropped against the defendants.

In the other, the shirts were used as evidence at the sentencing phase. This shirt was more directly connected but still, it didn't sound so much like a threat as it did a warning to the neighborhood that the guy is a snitch. As the author here points out, draconian drug war sentencing has resulted in a lot more pressure on small timers to rat out and more and more cases depend on that to get to court.

It strikes me as hell of bad way to end drug abuse but a really good way to get poor people mad at each other. This is how prohibition causes crime.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Progress report

It was a long day and I'm done for the night. For now, I can report that so far the boric acid seems to working on the ant problem. I haven't seen an ant in the kitchen since I spread it around. Of course I realized as I was doing it, that this is also a poison but somehow it feels more acceptable than chemicals.

I'm not convinced it's working yet though. The weather turned warmer and as I recall, they sometimes went away for three or four days last winter and then would reinvade. I'll have more confidence in it after a week. Hoping for the best...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Seized drugs in Afghanistan problematic

The US troops in Afghanistan are sitting on a stash of 300 lbs of assorted drugs they picked up while going about their soldierly work. A tiny fraction of what regularly moves through the country. The problem for Kabul is the economy depends on the drug trade and whole villages starve if they're not allowed to grow poppies. As to who's masterminding the operations, rumors point all the way from the local warlords to the highest reaches of government. They can't help but cast a blind eye at the traffic.

The US troops should do the same unless and until we can provide the villagers with an alternative form of income. The seized drugs represent destroyed lives of impoverished locals. Even the soldiers recognize it.
One man carrying a large amount of opium pleaded with Harris to give the drugs back, even coming to the American compound to make his case.

"He told me, 'Now I owe this man 400,000 afghanis,' " Harris said. "I actually felt bad for him. I mean, there's no way he could pay that. But I couldn't give him the opium back."
Unfortunately the man must pay all the same, either with his life, or with his teenage daughter who will be "sold" to the war lord to repay the debt. And what is this man's alternative to growing poppies? There's none. Harris goes on,
"You can tell people, 'Now you're doing the right thing, now you're a moral person, but your family and your village are going to starve.' That's a pretty tough sell."
It's an immoral sell. We bombed their country back into the stone age and we've done almost nothing to reconstruct it. The least we could do is let them make a living the best way they can.

Day trip

Having survived the summer, I'm getting back into the glad I'm living in the south frame of mind. It was a gorgeous afternoon here. Bright sun, clear sky, around 80 degrees. We took the tyke to the park in the big town. It was my first time there and I was impressed. The playground equipment is great, lots of slides and climbable items and loads of interesting little cubbies for quieter play. The grounds were beautifully maintained.

There were plenty of benches, a few nice sculptures and an incredible rose garden. It's so odd for me to see roses blooming at this time of year and I'm not talking the last scraggles of the season. They're still in full bloom. The minatures surrounding the fountain were especially magnificent and the floor of the gazebo in the corner was littered with drying petals of various colors. I really have to get a camera.

Melissa Ethredge gets on board for medical marijuana

Media Awareness Project has a candid interview with Melissa Ethredge on the first anniversary of her diagnosis with breast cancer. She did the chemo trip and beat the demon. She used medical marijuana to deal with the effects of chemo.
Etheridge: I decided instead of signing up for the drugs that-well, there's the drug that you take for the pain. But that constipates you. So, you have to take the constipation drug. But then that actually gives you diarrhea. So, you need a little diarrhea drug. Instead of taking five or six of the prescriptions, I decided to go a natural route and smoke marijuana.
Her doctors were all for it, although they couldn't prescribe it themselves.
Etheridge: Do I worry that it will be abused? Yeah. I mean, Vicodin is abused. Everything that brings pain relief is abused. Yeah. But does that mean because Vicodin is abused, do they keep it away from people? No.They prescribe it. Put the laws on it, prescribe it.
Music to my ears. She'll be a good advocate.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Much ado about cannabis

Thanks to my sister for sending a link to this recent article in the National Geographic.
Today a team of international researchers announced the discovery of CB2, the second cannabinoid receptor found in mammal brains. Unlike the first receptor, discovered 15 years ago, CB2 activation reduces nausea without producing psychotropic side effects.

The new receptor is activated by endocannabinoids, which are cannabis-like chemicals produced in nerve cells and certain other cells in the body. The team reports the findings in today's issue of the journal Science.
The related stories are interesting as well.

There's a nice archived piece on Bob Marley and the Rastafarian movement and yet another piece about grow-ops on public lands with hopelessly overvalued busts.

This last one, Wonder Drugs Waiting in the Weeds?, is not about marijuana, but it does shore up one of my main warnings on destroying the biodiversity in the Amazon rain basin with herbicidal bombings. And its closing words could sum up the medicinal use of cannabis.

"In Western, industrialized countries, healing is very much a specific act. You are taught to not self-medicate. If you're sick, you go to a doctor, and they'll tell you what's wrong," he said. "That's not true for the vast majority of the world. They do treat themselves."

And they treat themselves with herbs. Our own grandmothers used folk medicines, of which cannabis was just one remedy out of many natural plant products used to treat the common maladies. It's only in the last half century that we traded folk lore for pharmaceuticals. It's been largely to society's loss and coincidentally coincides with the escalation of the war on some drugs.

Interesting triangulation isn't it?

Sometimes I miss my front stoop

In Noho I always kept of box of chalk on the front porch so passers by could use the sidewalk to leave a message on what became the community chalkboard. This was always one of my favorites, done on a hot summer's day by my neighbor Nicolai. He was a really good gardener too.

I'm still dragging around with what has to be the worst case of food poisoning I've ever had but I've moved into cheese sandwiches with a bare scraping of mayo and mac and cheese for sustenance, so I'm finally on the mend. The weather is finally turning as well.

I turned my heat on yesterday for the first time. I like the system here. In Noho, the first day always made the house smell like it was burning down with all the dust in the floor registers, but here they're on the wall and it was fine. I almost like the heat season because it dries out the dampness in this house. I'm sure I'm going to hate the bill though. I'd rather pay more to be warm than shiver to save fifty bucks. I can't complain though. My summer bills were under $10.00 a month and the winter is short here.

The birds are still visiting the window well regularly. I've decided the newest pair are black crested tufted titmice. Today there was a bigger one on the wire with its tuft up. Otherwise the crows have been the main avian entertainment. They've been throwing raucous parties out there. I keep having visions of Heckyl and Jeckyl cartoons.

Meanwhile, I still have ants but thanks to all who answered my plea for help, on and off-line. I decided to take everyone's advice - although I'm holding KS's suggestion in abeyance in case the remedies don't work. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the borax yet. I made a special trip out yesterday to get it but my grocery doesn't carry it. I hope it's not one of those common household items that became illegal because you can make meth out of it. They didn't have boric acid either, but I'm hoping the pharmacy still carries it. I'll try at least pouring that around inside the house tomorrow.

Finally the tyke's new passion is Thomas the Tank Engine. I'm kind of getting to like Thomas myself. He sort of reminds me of the Little Engine that Could and he's got a catchy theme song.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Prohibition fails while legalization works

Pete at DrugWarRant has an interesting post this morning. A Pennsylvania newspaper gave a fair amount of ink to "Dr. Foreman, 79, who lives in Churchville and spent 40 years as a surgeon, part of it as chief of surgery at Warminster General Hospital in the 1980s." The good doctor has a solution to drug addiction. Legalize drugs. Give them to the addicts and the related crime and health costs will diminish to almost nothing. Isn't that what we've been saying all along?

Pete also reminds us of the program in Switzerland that proves this is a viable solution. I met one of the doctors involved in organizing this program at a DPA conference a couple of years ago and even then the evidence pointed to a phenomenal success, one that has been borne out over the intervening years.

There is a solution to drug addiciton. Prohibition is not it.

Loretta Nall for Governor

This just in. Loretta Nall got some decent press from the Mongomery Advertiser. Considering how difficult it is for a third party candidate to get on the ballot, they need to get over 40,000 signatures on a petition, it's an uphill climb and not even the Libertarians think she'll be able to do it, but don't discount our girl out of hand. If anyone can do it, Loretta can. She wouldn't be the first dark horse candidate to surprise the pundits.

If you're reading this in Alabama or are free to go help collect signatures wherever you're from, please consider getting on board for the petition drive which should start in a few weeks from now. You can contact her through her blog.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cops gone crazy and Loretta talks back

This is just disgusting. Police shoot two of of three family dogs during the course of raid in which all they found was a few grams of marijuana. The cops claim they first tried to subdue the dogs with a fire extinguisher, but according to the victims, they came in with guns blazing and took the dogs out immediately.

The cops of course dispute the eyewitness testimony, but whatever happened, what the hell were they doing busting into a home with guns blazing on a small marijuana bust, anyway?

[hat tip to Terry Nall]

To balance that disturbing piece, here's Loretta dishing it back to the sorry excuse for a local newspaper.

Good news for New Jersey

Both candidates for governor have come out in support of medical marijuana.
"Under the proper circumstances, I think we need to provide all medical resources, and that includes what is emerging now with regard to this particular application," Forrester said. "I'm very much open to that."

Corzine said, "If a doctor prescribes it, we need to do what is in the best interests of the patient."
A sign of progress for policy reform. I think we're getting their attention kids.

[hat tip to Drug War Rant]

Prohibition kills

Radley Balko has the latest on the case of the kid in Florida who was killed for allegedly possessing two ounces of marijuana. As the investigation unfolds, it turns out he actually had less than an ounce of herb and whether he ever pointed his registered handgun at the SWAT team at all. Considering his body was found in a closet with ten bullet holes in it, suggests he may have just freaked out when a bunch of armed masked men burst into his home.

Radley asks some timely questions. Like, Why does Sunrise, Florida have its own SWAT team? Why was a SWAT team deployed to serve a marijuana search warrant on someone with no history of violence, and no real criminal record? Did cops knock and announce themselves before entering? Did they give Diotaiuto a chance to answer the door before tearing the door down, as required by law?

Check out his post for the troublesome answers.

Follow the money

This is an intersting article on a medical marijuana provider that was busted for growing. He's successfully fighting the charges so far but I'm linking to it for this one point.
What the cops found in Stupak's two-bedroom condo was 1,200 marijuana plants in various stages of growth. In their eyes, Stupak was a big-time drug dealer.

...At the time of his arrest, Stupak was growing between four and six pounds of pot every three months.
Think about that when you read the valuations law enforcement makes on their eradication programs. Indoor growing usually gives the best yields and with all those plants, this kid was growing about 20 lbs. a year. If you value that at $5,000 a pound, which is really high, especially in Canada, that's still only $100,000. So when the cops tell you they kept millions of dollars worth of cannabis off the streets, don't believe them. It's a crock.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Cannabinoids are good for you

The preliminary studies are far from conclusive but a researcher in Canada did a study that suggests certain cannabinoids could be good for your brain.
In mammals, new nerve cells are constantly being produced in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is associated with learning, memory, anxiety and depression. Other recreational drugs, such as alcohol, nicotine and cocaine, have been shown to suppress this new growth. Xia Zhang of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and colleagues decided to see what effects a synthetic cannabinoid called HU210 had on rats' brains.

They found that giving rats high doses of HU210 twice a day for 10 days increased the rate of nerve cell formation, or neurogenesis, in the hippocampus by about 40%.
The effect is similar to Prozac. Unfortunately, another researcher found no such activity using natural THC. I'm not sure I like that only the synthetic showed any results. It might deter research into uses of the natural herb, but it still bolsters the contention that marijuana is not the dangerous drug the prohibitionists make it out to be.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sick day

Well I had big plans for today but it all fell apart at 3:00am when I woke up with the worst stomach cramps. This has been happening to me kind of regularly lately but it hasn't happened in a couple of months so I thought maybe I was home free. Usually I just get sick and it passes in a few hours. This one is hanging with me. I've been having to lie down about every hour all day when the cramps hit again.

I'm pretty sure it was the butter. I got these little rolls and I thought I was being very domestic by warming them up in the oven. I didn't use much butter but I think it must have been older than I thought. I can't quite remember when I bought it.

Anyway it seems to be passing but I still feel pretty yucky and don't feel like eating anything even though the gingerale is staying down. I'm off to bed. I'll be back tomorrow.

In the interim, check out this week's newsletters. Drug Sense Weekly and Drug War Chronicles always have an excellent weekly roundup.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Exercise in Futility

It's time for my annual rant on wasted resources. This just in from Yahoo news - Drug agents can't keep up with pot growers. Well no kidding, as if they ever have. This is such a typical cause and effect of prohibition. They more law enforcement goes after farmers, the more elaborate the growing operations become and as the risks go up, the owners of the growing operations tend to be from bigger organizations since they're the only ones able to afford the expense of protecting their crops. To recoup their expenses and make a profit, they increase the size of the grow.

This leaves the public in more danger, not less. Whereas in the "old days" you had small time growers, who planted just enough for themselves and a few friends, you now have people with large crops who have more to lose, thus take greater measures to protect their investment. This is why fields are now bobby trapped and protected with armed guards. You rarely heard of this sort of security in the days of lax enforcement. Furthermore, whereas before we had scores of people able to circumvent the black market by growing their own in order to obtain their herb, prohibition guarantees the large growers a black market for their product since the small grower cannot afford to take the same chances in order to grow a few plants.

Of course, the main concern for all taxpayers, consumers or otherwise is the cost of prohibition.

CAMP, an arm of the state attorney general's office, was formed in 1983 to help understaffed local authorities ferret out large-scale marijuana crops grown for profit, particularly in isolated areas far from roads where helicopters were needed. Five eradication teams deployed in different regions of the state operated this year on a $1.1 million budget, about three-quarters of it supplied by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

CAMP agents, with help from local sheriff's deputies and loaners from the National Guard, the state forestry department, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, have arrested 42 suspects, seized 76 weapons and raided 742 gardens.

That's just for CAMP. (Other smaller programs around the state operate on budgets of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars as well.) CAMP claims the destruction of 1.1 million plants worth 4.5 billion dollars - which if I did the calculations correctly - comes out to almost $5,000 for each plant, an absurd valuation even if every one of the plants were all fully mature and already stripped down to just the dry buds.

They overvalue to justify the cost of the futile program. Even if it was worth it, chasing after the plants in remote areas is the least efficient way to intercept the plants. If they really wanted to stop the trade, they would watch the fields until they were harvested and catch the growers when they got them out to the road but then the cops wouldn't get to ride around in the helicopters - usually provided by the National Guard units and whose exorbitant cost to run I assume is picked up by the Guard rather than being counted in as part of the budget.

Meanwhile they essentially spent over $26,000 per suspect just to catch them. That doesn't begin to address the costs of prosecuting them and eventually incarcerating at least some of them to the tune of millions more of our tax dollars. And all for what? To keep the country "safe" from a plant and the non-violent consumers who use it?

If they allowed those who wish to use it to grow a few plants in their own back yards, all these "problems" they cite in justification for this nonsenical campaign, would solve themselves. At a time when our country is being bled dry by natural disasters and the so called war on terror, perhaps the time is ripe to ask our legislators to show some fiscal sense and end the war on a simple plant.

And the point is.... what?

I'm off for an 11th hour call to do some tyke duty so I'll be gone for the afternoon but here's a story I forgot to link to earlier that Radley just picked up from the regular press.
An Army veteran who fled to Canada to avoid prosecution for growing marijuana to treat his chronic pain was yanked from a hospital by Canadian authorities, driven to the border with a catheter still attached, and turned over to U.S. officials, his lawyer says.
It even quotes our own Richard Cowan of Media Awareness Project.
Richard Cowan, a friend who runs the Web site, said in a telephone interview from Canada that he was with Tuck at the hospital when Canadian authorities arrested him.

"I would not believe it unless I had seen it," Cowan said. "They sent people in to arrest him while he was on a gurney. They took him out of the hospital in handcuffs, put him in an SUV, and drove him to the border."
Of course we knew the feds were lying when they said this wouldn't happen as a result of the Raich decision. Why would they stop arresting sick people now that SCOTUS gave them a license to do so? So easy to find them in their hospital beds and so good for those "crime" statistics.

I'm sure America will sleep better tonight knowing this marijuana smoking man is in a jail cell instead of hospital bed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hey Brother

Mark Herschler isn't related to me by blood, he and the rest of the clan are my chosen family. We go way back. We lived together as housemates, we haunted the night scene together and we've traveled life as soulmates for more than one lifetime I think. I was bowled over when I googled him on a whim tonight and found he has a new website.

The mp3 samples need a little work but after listening to what I could of his first two albums I'm sitting here absolutely weepy from the memories of the days when they were recorded. The whole extended family was together then. We had some golden times.

Mark is one of the most incredible musicians I've ever known. Check out the CD section. Buy something. I guarantee hours of listening pleasure. It's amazing how his early stuff is still so fresh. I wish he could have put some of the even earlier tapes on CD as well. I can't play them anymore and I would love to hear Waiting on the Rain.

Zeese for Senate

This is good news. Long time drug policy reformer and all around really smart guy Kevin Zeese is running for the Senate in Maryland.

Pat Rogers of the LeftIndependent blog tells me he's running as an as Independent, bringing together a coalition of Greens, Libertarians, Independents and disgruntled Democrats and Republicans.

I don't know Kevin, but I've known of him for a really long time. I believe he wrote the book on forfeiture and I've heard him speak. I can't imagine a better candidate for our side. Please visit his site and do what you can.

Funny day

It's still so freaking gloomy around here that I just can't get motivated to post today. Haven't seen the sun in days even though it stopped raining a couple of days back.

I think I need a beer to move the muse, but I don't want to have one this early when I'm taking care of the tyke. So I'll be posting when I get home tonight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Quote of the day

Via Talk Left.
"If there was a lesson to be learned, it's to never put your face on a bong." -- Tommy Chong
Jeralyn has the details on his new job.

Ants --- Arrrrrrrrgh!

When I first moved into this house, I had an ant problem. I put out traps and sprayed, figuring it was just a residual problem from the last tenants and they eventually disappeared. I haven't seen one all summer. Now that the weather is turning colder and since it started raining, all of sudden they've reappeared.

It drives me crazy. There is nothing for them to eat here. I don't even cook. In spite of my avowal to start cooking my own food again, after I seriously burned my hand on the oven (and you can still the scar) I went back to living on frozen Lean Cuisine dinners, sandwiches and the occassional can of soup. I never unpacked my kitchen stuff and still only have one plate in my cupboard, so I wash my dishes immediately after eating.

So why do the stupid little insects keep coming back? I hate spraying again. I don't like living with poison in my kitchen. I read somewhere that you can spray your counters with 151 proof vodka and it will kill anything. That I could live with. Anyone know if that's true?

A little linkfest

I didn't get around to the daily reads in a while because of my work schedule but Pete at Drug War Rant is doing the heavy lifting as usual. As always it's a scroller, from an excellent editorial in the Providence newspaper on the HEA atrocity to Pete's astute analysis on Gonzales v. Oregon, the assisted death case that John Roberts heard as his first proceeding as Chief Justice of SCOTUS.

Of special interest is this post on marijuana and driving done in France that offers more proof "cannabis poses a much lesser risk of fatal accidents than alcohol."

Meanwhile, Nikos at D'Alliance has more on Gonzales v. Oregon and advises that Drug Policy Alliance had submitted an amicus brief in the case. You can trust DPA to be on the forefront of personal liberties every time.

Finally, Terry and Loretta Nall are having an equally scrollable week. Don't miss Loretta's latest updates on her campaign for governor.

Texas task forces on the way out

Scott at Grits for Breakfast reports that yet another useless Texas task force has been disbanded. This is good news. None of these task forces have done anything except saddle the taxpayer with huge costs for incarcerating, at best the lowest level users and dealers, and at worst innocent people who were illegally set up by informants, such as in Tulia.

Scott however also offers this information, which I wasn't aware of:
Midland County did the right thing by getting rid of its drug task force, but local officials have a fiduciary responsibility not to stop there: counties without task forces have an opportunity to apply for the same federal grant money to pay for other things, for example, drug courts and probation services that would let them draw down new state funds. They can choose not to, but their county's taxpayers no longer would benefit from that particular pot of their federal tax dollars.
Sounds like a good model for harm reduction strategies to me. One wonders why you don't hear more about this option.

Citizen Marc

Thanks to Mycos for passing this link on to us. A new play based on the career of Marc Emery will be premiering in Canada soon. A reading was recently held of the unstaged work.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Emery's legal defence fund. Now living in Vancouver, the 47-year-old pot crusader is fighting the United States government's attempt to extradite him to face charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Citizen Marc: The Adventures of Marc Emery, produced by Christopher Doty and directed by John Gerry, will launch its premiere stage run at the Arts Project, Jan. 27, 2006.

Tickets for that two-week engagement will go on sale at the Grand Theatre in November.
Sounds like a must see if you're in the area.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Not your father's heroin - boomers ODs increasing

This is not a surprise.
Californians age 40 and older are dying of drug overdoses at double the rate recorded in 1990. In 2003, the latest year for which the state has figures, a record 3,691 drug users died, up 73% since 1990. The total surpassed deaths from firearms, homicides and AIDS.

Remarkably, the rate of deadly overdoses among younger users over that period has slightly declined, while the rate among those 40 and older has jumped from 8.6 to 17.3 per hundred thousand people.
Tellingly, this is also the same time frame during which the War on Some Drugs was escalated. For all the ONDCP's focus on the dangerous "it's not your father's marijuana" plant, the truth is for all the billions they have spent on eradication and incarceration, the only tangible result was purer chemical drugs on the street.

Ironically the black market for drugs is the only free market system that works in application because the government doesn't control it . When they first increased the penalites, the prices rose as dealers passed on the increased costs of security to the consumer. The higher profits drew a lot more dealers into the market. Eventually the price hit the limit of consumer tolerance and the supply, because of the increase in marketers, increased to the point where competition drove the price down and the purity up.

Since the market is not regulated, there's no quality control. You get "hot" batches hitting the street, so people OD inadvertently from an either an especially pure or unusally toxic shipment. Then there are the hard core addicts who end up in jail and don't realize how low their tolerance is when they get out and OD the first time they use after they're released.

Meanwhile, in all the statistics, one can't fail to note that there is not a single recorded case of an overdose caused by that "dangerous drug" marijuana. Our government spends billions every year on the criminalization of this plant and the persecution of chemical drug addicts. It hasn't changed a thing in 80 years except for the drug of choice.

The social and financial costs are mounting to unsustainable levels. Something has got to give. One hopes it will be the stubborn insistence on prohibition as a model for drug control.

Build a better mousetrap...

Light posting today until this evening. I guess it's a holiday but since my schedule is built on doctor's hours, I'm working. Hospitals are worse than the hospitality industry. The hours are longer and there's no regularity to the schedule. When I bartended I could predict my busy days. When I was at the law firm I used to know the date because I wrote it down all day long. Now I don't even know what day of the week it is half the time and I never know when a day will run into 14 hours.

Anyway, here's an interesting link I ran across recently.
We're looking for fresh, new ideas for a better America. Do you have a common-sense idea that will improve the day-to-day lives of everyday Americans? Or an opinion on how working families can succeed in the new global economy?

You have until December 5, 2005, to submit your idea and to weigh in. A panel of judges will select the top 21 ideas. All of America will be able to vote on the finalists, and on February 1, one person will win $100,000—runners up receive $50,000 each.
What a deal, save civil society and get paid for it. Seems worth thinking about and probably better odds than playing the lottery.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Drunk with power

I didn't get around to blogging Radley Balko's last op-ed on the 25th anniversary of MADD. He rightly congratulates them on a job well done, noting drunk driving deaths are down more than 35% since the 80s. He goes on to tell us by the mid-90s the deaths began to level off, thus validating MADD's success in changing public priorities and perceptions. Unfortunately they didn't stop there. Since then their mission has subtly changed to be anti-alcohol, bringing the organization into the realm of "neo-prohibition."

He charts their progress at diminishing the civil liberties of alcohol consumers from unreasonably lowering the legal limit for blood content to Fourth Amendment trampling roadblock searches to undermining legal protections for alleged drunk drivers. Most disturbing is their push into family law.

MADD is also pushing its agenda onto family laws, including a zero tolerance policy for divorced parents. Under the bills MADD is trying to push through state legislatures, a parent caught consuming one beer or glass of wine before driving could face penalties that, according to MADD, "should include, but are not limited to" — "incarceration," "change of primary custody," or "termination of parental rights." This means that if you take your kid to the game, have a beer in the third inning, then drive home, you could very well lose your rights as a father.
This was news to me but I'm not surprised to hear it. The family courts in my experience are already pre-disposed against responsible consumption. Meanwhile even MADD's founder laments the agency having drifted so far into neo-prohibtion. That was not her intent for it but there's a bigger problem with MADD that should concern us as taxpayers.
Unfortunately, the tax-exempt organization has become so enmeshed with government it has nearly become a formal government agency. MADD gets millions of dollars in federal and state funding, and has a quasi-official relationship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In some jurisdictions, DWI defendants are sentenced to attend and pay for alcoholic-recovery groups sponsored by MADD. In many cities, MADD officials are even allowed to man sobriety checkpoints alongside police.
I agree with Radley. It's time for "Congress revisit the spigot of federal funding flowing to MADD, and consider revoking the organization's tax-exempt status." They have become an anti-alcohol lobbying group and as such should not be funded on the taxpayers' dime nor given a tax free ride on their income.

Blast from the past

I found the Detroitblog by accident recently and found I really like it. This blogger started out photographing old buildings in Detroit but the blog evolved into a kind iconoclastic journey through Motown. He describes it as being, "about my wanderings and debaucheries in Detroit, as well as observations, news, commentary and ramblings about the city itself. I love Detroit, even the old Detroit of blight, waste and emptiness. Hockeytown. Motown. I grew up here, had my best times here. It’s my town."

The current feature is "a scan of a full-color brochure from the dying days of the Fort Shelby Hotel on Lafayette, printed in 1974 and found in a moldy pile in one of the hotel’s backrooms a couple years ago."

Maybe it was just me, but it made this old hippie laugh even though his commentary is a little snarky. That's just his style. Enjoy.

Verify the vote

This is single most important post I've read today. It's so important that I'm cross posting it to all my blogs. If we don't solve election fraud, nothing else we do will matter. Please take action.

There is ample evidence accumulating that the Diebold electronic voting machines are easily hacked and strong circumstanial evidence that they were tampered with in the 04 elections. Even if you don't believe this to be true, there is no legitimate reason to oppose a paper trail in order to ensure public confidence in a fair vote. Thus, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 550), a bill introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), should be taken up by the House and passed into law this year.

The Velvet Revolution has an easy click and send letter you can use to voice your concerns to your Congressman. I urge you to participate. The letter also provides a space to leave a personal message. This is what I said. Feel free to use it.

The foundation of our democracy rests on the public's confidence in the electoral system. Without a verifiable paper trail, there can no certainty that the count is true and valid. If we are to solve the current polarity of our elecorate and begin to address the serious problems that face us in the future, we must have a transparent election process. I urge you to support this bill.

Drugs don't kill - prohibition does

The BBC has a page that consolidates all their recent drug stories. Some I've seen already but this one on a new "drug" making the club circuit is pretty scary. Apparently people are drinking an industrial grade paint solvent to get high since the clubs instituted zero tolerance policies for other safer drugs.

As one commenter noted, they outlawed ecstasy, which people were not overdosing from, so kids are taking what's available and now they're OD'ing and dying all over the place.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Do you really have to hurt him?

This is too sad. The one hit wonder, Boy George, was arrested in Manhattan for falsely reporting a burglary and possession of a small amount of cocaine. I find the details in the WaPo a little suspicious though.
Boy George called police early on Friday to report a burglary. But when police arrived a little after 3 a.m. the officers found the door open and were greeted by the singer who asked them, "What's up?"

Police spokesman Det. Eric Crisafi said Boy George then staggered about his apartment apparently in "a drugged stupor" and police found a small amount of cocaine next to his computer.
Cocaine consumers do not go into stupors. They get agitated maybe, but they don't stumble around. It sounds more like he was drunk and did a line or two to sober up. I'm thinking he may not even have called the police himself. Someone could have been pissed off at him and done it.

In any event, he's in a world of trouble now. NY laws are still some of the most draconian on the books. One can only hope the press gives his new career some buzz so he can make enough money for the legal fees.

Kid scripts for anti-psychotics down

This is good news. The WaPo reports there has been a nearly 20% drop in pediatric prescriptions for anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs. Whether this is a result of public fear arising out of emerging data that suggests the drugs increase suicidal tendencies in children or that doctors are becoming skeptical of the drug companies' internal short term studies is unclear. Either way, there is undeniably a growing call from the public for accountability from the pharma corporations and our own FDA regarding how these drugs make it onto the market with apparently insufficient testing.

The pharmas of course pooh-pooh the idea that they are perpetrating dangerous drug use with fraudulent studies and don't believe they should be held responsible.

Alan Goldhammer, associate vice president for regulatory affairs at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said long-term studies should be conducted by public health agencies at taxpayer expense.

"I don't think they fall within the province of the pharmaceutical industry because they are so costly and time-consuming that it would probably bring drug development to a halt," he said. "There would not be the funds to develop new drugs if one focused on one drug and tried to know everything about it."
That's choice coming from an industry that enjoys the highest profits of any industry in the nation. In fact, aren't we always being told that they need to fleece Americans by charging five time more for medicines here than they do in other countries precisely to pay for R&D? They could use the money they spend on PR for their new "improved" drugs on longer trials instead of pushing nearly untested dope on kids.

To put it into context, take this disturbing statistic.
The federal government's top mental health researcher said it "was amazing" that nearly a quarter of all antipsychotic prescriptions for children are going to those younger than 9, the vast majority of them boys.

"I am concerned we are going to see an increase in . . . antipsychotics in this population," said Insel. "Have we gone from one set of medications of known benefit and of questionable risks to a group of medications with unknown benefits and well-known risks?"
Perhaps this answers Acidman's question. Maybe the reason for escalated playground violence is not so much that kid's don't have the supervision and support of two parent families anymore, as much as it is that they are simply overmedicated with dangerous but legally prescribed drugs.

And yet we spend billions a year in a futile attempt to keep kids from trying a herbal plant which of course was what they were doing before heavy duty anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals became the vogue in psychiatric circles. There was less violence in schools then and I suspect less suicide among young people as well. Draw your own conclusions.

Cannabis consumers are better drivers

From Speed TV: Fifth Gear. Click on "Driving under the influence of marijuana."

This reminds me of a study done in California that Gary Webb reported on before he died. It showed that the best drivers were cocaine consumers. The newspaper he was working for at the time gave the piece approximatedly one or two column inches buried inside the paper. You can be sure if it showed the opposite, it would have made the front page.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Poll watching

You gotta love it. Loretta is still moving ahead in the straw poll which appears to still be open if you haven't voted yet. She's left former Judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore in the dust and is only a handful of votes away from the frontrunner, Democrat Lucy Baxley.
Bob Riley 471 - 22%
Roy Moore 329 - 15%
Lucy Baxley 519 - 24%
Don Siegleman 336 - 16%
Loretta Nall 482 - 22%
Other 15 - 1%
How cool. Thanks to everyone who has helped. Way to show them the power of policy reformers folks and how perfect is it to be able to help Loretta's campaign and reform at the same time?

NORML news

I'm working today but here's a couple of links from NORML to get you started on the weekend.

Darn, we forgot to "celebrate" but Oct. 2 was the 68th anniversary of marijuana prohibition. Here's the very first person arrested under the law and host of other useful links on your rights and where the prohibition hotspots are today. "Every 42 seconds someone is arrested on marijuana charges, 88% for simple possession."

An Australian study shows medical marijuana reduces reliance on other pharmaceutical drugs.

NORML's new video blog has launched a contest with cash prizes for best vids on policy reform.

Friday, October 07, 2005


So I had two letters I didn't want to open. I held on to them for almost a week before I finally peeked inside. One was from the hospital, where I spent 23 hours and 59 minutes in the ER and the other was from my insurance company. It was too early to be the regular bill for my coverage. My last insurance plan was cheap, it was a group plan from work but it took forever to cover the bills and I was always getting dunning notices from the providers. I was afraid to see what was going to happen with these since I'm with a new insurer and I've heard this hospital is not patient about getting paid.

I finally opened them yesterday afternoon, since I found myself unexpectedly home early. I had to laugh. The hospital sent me another survey about my "customer" satisfaction with their service and BCBS sent me a detailed list of the services that were provided to me and what they cost but damn if the bottom line wasn't that I only owed the expected $150 co-pay.

You know I've been paying that $500+ a month for a single policy insurance since January and there have been months I thought, jeez if I wasn't paying this I'd have enough money for a down payment on a little house around here, but it turned out to be a good gamble. At this point, the hospital services cost more than the investment I made in the policy. The lesson being, you get to a certain age, when you have all this wisdom of experience but the physical plant starts to fail, you really can't afford to be without coverage.

Creative accounting

I don't usually link to subscriber only articles but this one is such a blatant example of overvaluing a marijuana bust that I'm going to give you the excerpts anyway.
Cops bust Kirkland grow house

A tip from a suspicious resident led police to dismantle a grow house in Kirkland last month and seize 738 marijuana plants as well as 1,098 grams of marijuana. "Thanks to information provided by citizens, police officers from Station 1and from the West-End Drug Squad carried out, at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 20, a search and seizure in a home on Timberlea Trail in Kirkland, discovering a grow house," said Montreal police Constable Anthony Kissmate. He said a citizen, who had just read tips on how to detect the presence of grow houses, called police.

Kissmate said the value of the plants was estimated at $738,000 on the black market; and the value of the marijuana and equipment was estimated at $10,000. Kissmate said the basement of the home had been completely transformed into a grow house. "Criminal accusations for production and possession with the intent to traffic are pending," he said.

Station 1 commander Michel Lecompte said that since 2002, including the search and seizure on Timberlea Trail, Station 1 officers, with the help of the drug squad, have dismantled 32 grow houses on its territory. Here are some marijuana seizure statistics from Station 1, including the latest bust, dating back to 2002:
32 grow houses dismantled

9,676 plants seized

59, 570 grams seized

$10.2 million worth of plants and grams

$333,690 in equipment

32 criminal accusations laid
Areas most affected are Beaconsfield and Kirkland, with 13 and nine grow houses discovered, respectively.
Thanks to Tim Meehan for the tip and for doing the math. "It would appear at first glance that they are saying that each plant
produces 6 grams, which, at $1000 per plant, means that each gram costs $166.66!"

Looks like the local law enforcement is even worse at mathematics than I am. I would bet however, that they spent a lot more busting the places than the cannabis was really worth.

Loretta takes on the machine

It would appear that Loretta Nall's candidacy for governor of Alabama is gaining some steam. She was invited to appear on Kevin Elkins radio program to debate Republican Rep. Dick Brewbaker on drug policy in Alabama. I didn't have time to listen to it, (and truthfully since I'm using the laptop today, I couldn't listen anyway because I haven't figured out how to turn the volume on) but knowing Loretta it's was sure to be a great debate.

Loretta has also posted the political platform she will run on and has a plan to promote her candidacy that probably hasn't ever been tried in the history of the US. She will be walking the entire state of Alabama to meet her constiuency and hear their concerns. Please read about The Long Walk to Freedom and help her out if you can.

Also, if you haven't voted in the poll yet, it's still up so please take a moment to vote. And thanks to everyone who has already cast their ballot. It's working!!! I just checked it and Loretta has pulled ahead of Republican Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore and is currently even with Democrat Don Siegleman. Way to show em just what policy reformers can do. Yippee.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Friends in unexpected places

It's so funny. I was just thinking of my dear friends Mark and Molly Bode a couple of days ago. We all left Noho at about the same time last year and as usually happens, lost touch with each other.

How nice to find an article at Cannabis Culture on Mark's dad Vaughn and to discover Mark will be doing a special show for Marc Emery and Cannabis Culture to mark the anniversary of his dad's passing. I've seen Mark put on a similar show and it's a must attend event.

Since I assume it's being held in Canada, I'm unlikely to be there unless someone dumps a few thousand dollars on me in the interim to pay my back bills, but if you go - and I urge you not to miss a chance to hang with Bode - please give Mark my love.

Kid Cannabis

Rolling Stone has a fascinating article on a bunch of young kids who became big time drug dealers. It traces their meteoric rise and subsequent fall when they forgot the primary rules of dealing. Don't flaunt your wealth and don't be your own best customer.

It reads like a story from the 60s. I'm not even going to excerpt it. It's definitely a read in full for yourself.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

No where to run to

The official count is well over a million displaced people in Colombia, but human rights advocates estimate due to underreporting, the true number is probably closer to 2 million. The government line is they are being displaced by the continuing civil war in the country between paramilitary and military groups. It would appear the real reason can be pretty directly tied to the war on some drugs and plants.
Most of the displaced people are small landowners, and after they have fled, the areas are developed or used for illegal cultivation, according to the indigenous community activist.

"Many families have also been displaced by fumigation, because if their fields are spayed, the ground is destroyed by pesticides for a long time and cultivation is impossible. They have to leave. This motive for displacement is not recognised by the Colombian government," she added.

Barreto said that in many cases, the Colombian Army had threatened farmers' families, ordering them to leave their land and accusing them of aiding the leftist guerillas.

"They steal our territory, kill our people, and we are displaced," Colombian Congressman Ventura Diaz said in a recent statement urging the U.N. to take action against land grabs.
Millions of US tax dollars are being used to perpetrate this virtual genocide under the guise of the war on some drugs, obstensibly for military aid in fumigation. It's been noted however that much of the activity happens to occur around oil pipelines. Draw your own conclusions on that.

All I can say is if they were serious about stopping the flow of cocaine into the US, they would be spending their time finding the coca paste labs instead of bombing poverty striken farmers.

Send lawyers, drugs and money

Thanks to John French for pointing us to this publication, Inside Costa Rica. This edition reports the recent seizures of multiple tons of cocaine and millions of dollars.
The discovery of new cocaine consignments and packages containing seven million dollars renewed fears on Wednesday that Panama has become one of the favorite drug trafficking corridors.
Where have these folks been - in a cave? As far as I can tell Panama has been a favored corridor for decades.

Delayed post - Little things

Blogger was down for maintenence - again - last night so I'm just posting this now.

Second day in the rotation and I'm burned out kids. That's the trouble in having a lot of days off at once. I'm a night owl by nature so at the end of five to seven days off, my sleep patterns revert to late night hours and late morning wake up. Then I have to readjust to a predawn schedule. Since I can't fall asleep for the first couple of nights, I end up having to get sleep deprived to make it work. On the third night I sleep a lot, so just a quick run down of the latest wild life.

The geese are flying south in droves and in huge flocks. The tyke and I saw a splendid group the other afternoon. A couple of days ago we saw three hawks circling low over the neighborhood. It's funny I haven't seen the hawks all summer but they're back with the cooler weather.

Back here at HQ there's been a couple of chickadees that have visiting the window well to steal the spider's stash of bugs. They're very cute and quite bold. I don't know if they can see me or not but they often look in the window. Meanwhile the crows have been out of control. There's only about six of them I think, but they're incredibly racous. It appears the neighbor two doors down feeds them. They hang in the trees almost every morning. A few days ago a huge hawk joined them. The pack almost chased him away but he didn't leave until I came out of the porch to get a closer look.

Tonight's excitement was a visit by a little boy scout selling some horrible looking flavoreed popcorn. Of course you have to buy some although it looks like something I wouldn't think of eating. The prices topped at $40. I of course went for the bottom line $8 selection. As I filled out the form, incredibly, I saw that some of my neighbors had ordered $60 worth of the stuff. I found it somewhat surprising. It's a good neighborhood but it's somewhat modest with a lot of elderly people.

Maybe it was the uniform. He looked to be about 10 or 12 and he was a very polite kid. More likely, in a town this small, they knew him personally.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Take the long way home

Our pal Howard Wooldridge's odyssey is over at last. He hit the streets of Manhattan yesterday, completing his cross country ride and entering the records books as the first long rider to make the trip in both directions. It's good to see he got a nice piece in the NYT and some TV news coverage for the grand finale.

You can read all about his saga on the LEAP site of course which provides links to other press coverage and his blog. And don't forget, lead horse Misty has a book coming out about their journey in just a couple of weeks. See the site for details or orders can also be submitted by calling 1-888-280-7715.

I wanted to be in Manhattan at the end but once again my schedule conflicted with the grand event. Nonetheless I was there in spirit. Congratulations Howard. Job well done and I hope the three of you get a good long rest.

Loretta Nall gets noticed

Loretta Nall got some ink from her local newspaper this week on her candidacy for Alabama governor. Considering the source, it's a pretty good article and presents her court appeal and her upcoming campaign without the usual snark one might expect. They in fact have a few good quotes from her. My favorites,
"The drug war has given rise to the current Alabama prison crisis, which is costing Alabamians millions of dollars a year with only negative returns in exchange," Nall said. "The other candidates are not up to addressing these important but controversial issues because they have built their political careers on meaningless slogans like 'Tough on Drugs' and 'what about the children?,' which in fact do nothing to deter drug use or protect children. Through my candidacy, I would love to force the other candidates to address these issues."

Nall said drug policy reform is needed in Alabama because taxpayers bear the cost of keeping non-violent offenders in already overcrowded prisons and and policy reform could "save tens of millions in law enforcement budgets, court costs, prison costs, not to mention the immeasurable social costs of saddling young people with criminal records for smoking a little pot."

"We're paying for them to be non-productive citizens. It's not about the right to get high. It is about how the current war on drugs is not meeting its stated objectives," she said.
Meanwhile thanks to everyone who helped with the poll. It's still ongoing so if you haven't clicked over yet please do. It's unlikely of course that we can put her in the winner's category against party machine candidates but a strong showing will force the media and those candidates to take her seriously.

And who knows, a strong showing in the actual race could inspire other candidates to come forward and run on policy reform platforms. Someday has got to get this meme going and Loretta has never been one to sit around waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting. Vote for Loretta Nall.