Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Canada cracks down on seeds

The RCMP in Canada just busted another internet seed operation in a culmination of their new task force's investigation. Richard Hratch BAGHDADLIAN and six of his associates are facing 49 assorted charges over this business that has been openly operating on the internet since 1998.

Suspicious timing if you ask me. Funny that so soon after the US meddled in Canada's drug enforcement with the arrest of Marc Emery they suddenly got this hot urge to bust seed sellers. It seems to be a pretty transparent attempt to justify arresting Emery after taking his tax money for all the years he was in operation and conveniently adding a little boost to the extradition proceedings.

Update: Here's a news account of the bust. The RCMP say this is the first time they've targeted seeds, I guess that's because they arrested Marc at the request of the US and not as a specific investigation. The basis of the arrest is somewhat muddy to say the least.

Marijuana activist Marc-Boris Saint-Maurice attended the news conference where the details of the seizure were released.

He said since the web site has been closed down the whole international cannabis community has been "up in arms."

"There is the impression that seeds are legal in Canada and this case is unprecedented," Saint-Maurice said.

"The upcoming court case is going to be important to try to figure out the actual status of seeds."

Since they allow legal grow-ops for medical marijuana, it will be a decision of some import for many sick people who depend on the herb for relief from their symptoms. It's just crazy how Canada's policies are degrading from sensible to hysterical at the same time the situation here is finally improving.

Media Watch

I don't see it listed on the 60 Minutes main page but Tim Meehan tells me that the program just confirmed they will be airing Marc Emery's interview on the show this Sunday, March 5th.

Speaking of television, my neighbor really is an actor. He was in some crime show on the Discovery channel as a re-enactor of the FBI investigating a murder. He actually had a pretty big role although I don't think he got more than one or two lines. Still it was pretty cool to see him on TV.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The end is near...

Well it's official. Don't polish up your bongs just yet but the drug war is over. The Wall Street Journal just posted an editorial calling it a failure and according to my dear friend Jules Siegel, that is the final arbiter of any political issue. He's maintained through the years that contrary to popular opinion, the Vietnam War didn't end because Walter Cronkite said it was wrong, rather it ended when the WSJ editorialized against it. From his mouth to G-d's ears.

Granted this is hardly a vicious condemnation but for a paper as conservative as WSJ, I think it's very strong. For instance:
Economist Milton Friedman predicted in Newsweek nearly 34 years ago that Richard Nixon's ambitious "global war against drugs" would be a failure. Much evidence today suggests that he was right. But the war rages on with little mainstream challenge of its basic weapon, prohibition. [...]

The drug war has become costly, with some $50 billion in direct outlays by all levels of government, and much higher indirect costs, such as the expanded prison system to house half a million drug-law offenders and the burdens on the court system. Civil rights sometimes are infringed. One sharply rising expense is for efforts to interdict illegal drug shipments into the U.S., which is budgeted at $1.4 billion this fiscal year, up 41% from two years ago.

That reflects government's tendency to throw more money at a program that isn't working. Not only have the various efforts not stopped the flow but they have begun to create friction with countries the U.S. would prefer to have as friends.
Needless to say, the author doesn't get it completely right but he's asking the right questions.
So what's the alternative? An army of government employees now makes a living from the drug laws and has a rather conflictive interest in claiming both that the drug laws are working and that more money is needed. The challenge is issued: Do you favor legalization? In fact, most drugs are legal, including alcohol, tobacco and coffee and the great array of modern, life-saving drugs administered by doctors. To be precise, the question should be do you favor legalization or decriminalization of the sale and use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines?

A large percentage of Americans will probably say no, mainly because they are law-abiding people who maintain high moral and ethical standards and don't want to surrender to a small minority that flouts the laws, whether in the ghettos of Washington D.C. or Beverly Hills salons. The concern about damaging society's fabric is legitimate. But another question needs to be asked: Is that fabric being damaged now?
Any reasonable inquiry would have to lead to answering the last question in the affirmative.

[hat tip Jules Siegel]

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday aricraft blogging

I made a skydive here in DeLand once. It's a smaller drop zone than Z-Hills but it was nicer in a way. More intimate, and the people were friendlier. They have a new airplane now but thanks to Jump Shack, a parachute maker nearby, I found this graphic of the Twin Otter I jumped that time.

That was a great jump. I was on the sunset run and when you reached altitude you could see both the Atlantic and the Gulf at the same time. I had a bad landing on that one. This was another last minute jump without instruction. I had never landed in pea stone before so I slid out on my sneakers but Dave managed to stay standing and I ended up kneeling between his knees, so I just threw my arms open - ta da - as if we had planned it. We nailed the target dead center as well. Everyone applauded. I think that was my favorite jump of the three I made.

Meanwhile, as an added bonus, a little instructional film on how to handle highway landings. Just click on this video and stick with it to the end. The punchline is worth it.

Drug testing run amok

This is why we need lawyers. Secretly dosing unsuspecting soldiers with potent forms of LSD is wrong and these men deserve to be compensated for being treated as human guinea pigs without their informed consent. And that's apparently the least harmful substance they were subjected to. According to the article, "Between 1943 and 1989 thousands of healthy young men were tested with a variety of drugs and gasses."

Am I the only one that sees the irony in governments arresting people who willingly take drugs on the basis of public safety, while at the same time administering drugs secretly to unknowing soldiers and then sending them off on holiday? [hat tip Vig]

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Don't mess with Bill

I don't subscribe to my old hometown paper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette. The rag wasn't worth the 50 cents a day they charged for it when I lived there and I'll be darned if I'm going to pay hundreds of dollars to access the online content when I can get the major news for free at masslive.com. But I still check the site regularly of late, mainly (which is a testament to my old age) to see if anyone I know has died. You can't read the obits but you can read the list of names.

You can also view the photos in their galleries for free which I only recently realized. This week I found a fairly terrible picture of my old boss Bill Newman. Trust me he doesn't usually look this angry. In fact when he let loose with a full throated belly laugh in the office while he was on the phone, all of us were in stitches, even though we didn't have a clue about the joke. That's one of the things I miss about working there.

And now for a word from a non-consumer

Quote of the day from GuyK's post on tunnels at the Mexican border.
We are losing the war on drugs. It is time to legalize, tax, and control and get the big money out of it. And just maybe as a by product of legalizing drugs we might regain control of our borders.
And as one of his commenters pointed out, there's 435 seats up for election in November. It's time we threw out the "tough on drugs" career politicians and elected some "smart on drugs" newcomers instead.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Going Dutch in a Bed and Breakfast detox

Preston Peet according to the blurb in his book, is a New York City-based writer, editor, musician, actor, DJ, activist and adventurer. Not to mention fearless psychonaut. I doubt there's a drug he hasn't taken and he's battled his addictions for many of his 30 something years.

I have to go blog politics for a while so I'll leave you with the tale of his latest adventure in detoxing with herbs in Amsterdam until I get back. The graphic, shamelessly stolen from his site, is the place he stayed for 18 days while in Holland for this treatment.

Be sure to check out the sidebar while you're there. He has links to some interesting news I missed or didn't get around to posting.

Campaign notes

We've been remiss in updating on this. Loretta Nall got a front page story in the Huntsville Times about her run for governor. (Click on the photo and it gets large enough to read). Is it me or are the articles becoming less snarky? A year ago the media could barely conceal their contempt for a "pothead" candidate if they covered her at all. Now she's on the front page.

I'm telling you, if anyone can pull off an upset win, it's going to be Loretta.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Yeah - Mickey Mouse Club

Thanks to Mad Maxx for this gem. D.A.R.E. is holding their International Training Conference at Disneyland. Somehow it feels so appropriate. I'm sure all the D.A.R.E. contributors will be happy to know their money will be going to ensure the comfort of the purveryors of this "fine" and totally ineffective program.

Just ask its graduates.

Wave of the future

If I can just get the old Ford to hold on long enough, maybe I can get one of these.

You have to admit, it looks pretty cool and it will go about 120 mph in the air.

Don't you just feel like humming the Jetsons theme song when you look at it?

Those were the days....

Thanks to the lovely Louise for emailing me this photo from the days of yore when Louise still owned shortly after the City Cafe was sold and I was a regular after work. That's the well traveled and tanned Louise in yellow with another former reg, Stacy, who really did write a book about DJ'ing. We always thought she was bullshitting until I finally googled her one day.

Seems like a lifetime ago now.

It could only happen to me

Doesn't look like I'll be getting out of work early today but here's a silly little story until I get to the news later tonight. I told you a while ago how I got a homemade cassette tape from my friend in the Florida Keys. I discovered I could play it here at the homestead but it isn't that convenient to do so and I was never able to hear the whole thing although as I predicted, Good Night Irene was the lead off song.

So here's the silly part. I've owned my trusty Ford for about five years now I think and I never noticed until a week ago, that I have a cassette deck in it. Now in my defense, I rarely drove this car. Plus, the radio is a kind of fancy setup and the navigation buttons are duplicated up on the dashboard so I never fooled around with the all the buttons on the actual unit. It's also set in low under the dashboard so it's not like the little gate is so apparent. But I'm probably the only person I know who could own something for five years and not figure out everything it can do. I set it to the local station I liked and never really fooled with it all these years.

Anyway, I can listen to the tape in the car. Of course I still don't drive it much so I can only listen to one or two songs a day but I've cycled through the whole thing finally. My new favorite song is Dance a Little Closer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Third time's a charm...

Well, it's official. Drug policy reform has arrived in the mainstream. Conan O’Brien made a joke about MPP's Nevada initative in his monologue. That's not their slogan of course and nobody laughed at the joke, but when he announced the initative to set it up, he got a big round of applause.

MPP is also receiving all kinds of good press within Nevada.
And on Wednesday of last week, our Nevada campaign was featured prominently and favorably during the 5:30, 6:30, and 11:00 slots of the local evening news on the ABC and CBS TV affiliates in Carson City, Reno, and Tahoe. One CBS news anchor even remarked on how the one-ounce possession limit mandated by our initiative is a very small amount of marijuana.
If you have any money to give to political campaigns, this is one worth contributing to right now. They stand a decent chance of passing it this time. And if you're broke, they still have a good job available.

The political climate is ripe for change. The feds are so out of control, the states are starting to assert their rights. I read somewhere today, there's big Kelo backlash going on in several states. There's no reason we couldn't ride that same wave of discontent and get some sensible drug policy enacted as well.

Rumor mill works overtime on Ricky Williams drug test

First of all, as the thehim kindly pointed out, I was dissing the wrong authority on Ricky's testing. What I know about football could fit in a thimble. I didn't know it was the NFL and not the specific teams that do the testing. That doesn't change my opinion that the whole witch hunt for marijuana use is a ridiculous waste of time and should not be a criteria for eligibility to play. For G-d's sake, we're talking about a game here, not brain surgery.

That being said, it appears there is still a lot of confusion around just what happened to Ricky. Since my original post, I've heard he simply missed a test because he was in India, then I heard he failed a test for some mystery drug that isn't a steroid but could be a prescription drug for his anxiety disorder. Or it could be something else. A lot of speculation among the football pundits but far as I can see there's not a lot of facts. You can keep track of the ongoing mystery here. Me, I'm just going to wait for Vig to email me the latest details.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hallucinogenic tea finds sympathy in the Court

Well, I'm feeling a little better about SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts after this decision.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a small congregation in New Mexico may use hallucinogenic tea as part of a four-hour ritual intended to connect with God.

Justices, in their first religious freedom decision under Chief Justice John Roberts, moved decisively to keep the government out of a church’s religious practice. Federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the hoasca tea of the Brazil-based church, Roberts wrote in the decision.
Alito didn't sit on this case. One wonders if it would have been unanimous if he had, nonetheless, I like this kind of talk out of the Chief Justice.
Roberts said that the Bush administration had not met its burden under a federal religious freedom law to show that it could ban “the sect’s sincere religious practice.”

The chief justice had also been skeptical of the government’s position in the case last fall, suggesting that the administration was demanding too much, a “zero tolerance approach.”
“The government did not even submit evidence addressing the international consequences of granting an exemption for the (church),” Roberts wrote.
MSNBC is running a poll, (scroll down to the red text in the article), that when I voted was running 49% in agreement, 22% thinking it was questionable and 25% thinking it was flat out wrong. I of course voted in agreement with the decision. It's a good one. This doesn't end the matter unfortunately. The Court sent it to back to be kicked around again in a federal appeals court.

One expects the White House will expend yet more of the taxpayer's resources on this ridiculous vendetta against the 140 people who comprise the congregation of the church. I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of tax dollars they've already spent on the litigation? The White House has been appealling every decision made by the courts in favor of the church for years.

What do they care? They're spending our money.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Next lifetime I want to be photogenic

This is a first. I just spent literally hours taking pictures of myself. I think I started at 4:00ish, putting makeup on and I mean the whole deal. It took a long time. The first round of shots I took were horrible. It's so pathetic. I had to draw on eyebrows so they would show in the flash. I've never done that so they were pretty lopsided but I couldn't deal with starting over, so I just went with it. I took about 75 shots to get three I could sort of live with. I'm just so unphotogenic.

Why did I indulge in this orgy of narcissim you ask? True it's not like me but I promised DetNews a new head shot almost a year ago and I was determined to get it done this weekend. I know I could have just gone to a real photog, and I had an ongoing email correspondence going on with one but I just couldn't make an appointment. I have to be in the mood to do the photo thing and I never am. Particularly since I've gained so much weight since I've lived here.

In any event, I decided to just take the shots with my own camera since it has a self portrait feature. So I have these three shots and I can't figure out which one to use. I look at these photos and I don't even recognize myself. It's like who is this pudgy old person? What happened to that skinny, daring young woman who jumped out of airplanes?

But I digress. I need to decide which one to use for now so I decided to build up to it but posting them here first. My software has this funny feature, so these are the cartoon versions. I'll be using the even less attractive, real life versions at DetNews, but I thought I'd conduct an informal poll.

None are perfect, but each has its own charm. The first one, my hair looks really grey but I like the brick wall symbolism. Most days, that's what I feel like I'm up against and it's the longest shot, so it's the kindest in the real life version.

The second shot, I like the folksy background with the shed that looks like a barn but in the real life version, the shadows hit so it looks like there's a booger in my nose. Maybe it's just me, what do you think? I don't think that it can be fixed, but in a 90 pix version, it probably won't be noticeable.

The last one I just don't know. That black stuff on my mouth is the shine from my lipstick in the real life version but I think it makes me look the most jowly. On the other hand, my hair looks the best in that one and I think the angle makes my eyes look kind of like the Mona Lisa. Try it. They sort of follow you around. It has a sort of in your face quality that I like too. So what do you folks think?

Ricky Williams busted again

This is getting to be an old story. Ricky failed his fourth drug test. Big shock. The Dolphins should do themselves a favor and either just kick him off the team or simply quit testing him. It's so absurd. They know he smokes and apparently it didn't affect his game or they wouldn't keep taking him back. So what's the point of subjecting him to tests they know he's going to fail?

Marijuana stays at detectable levels in the body for weeks longer than its effects last. Judging from the number of players that get caught using it in any given season, I'd say it's rather a pervasive form of relaxation among the players. And if anyone could make a case for using it medicinely, I would think athletes that are routinely knocked around and jumped on by dozens of what -- 250 lb players -- in any given game, could use the pain relief at the end of the day. I bet they let them take pharma drugs to play through the pain of injuries. Why get on their case for taking a natural remedy?

They got their eyes on you

I'm trying to get some stuff done around the house today, since it's back to work tomorrow. So here's a little linkage to keep you entertained until later.

Via that red hot cajun Lil Toni, a new webcam for my collection at The Impolitic from a corner on Bourbon Street.

And one of the the things I really miss about lovely downtown Noho is the Smith College Greenhouse. This bulb show was always cheering while one was trying to survive the February doldrums. The web cam is a little boring but I like seeing the building anyway and the photo galleries accessible from the same page are great.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Careful what you wish for

Oh baby! All across America and even in foreign lands, Gut Rumbles fans are right-clicking on this post. I named my copy, acidass.

Stevie is the new blog goddess. The world needs more ballsy "wimmin" and after all, he was asking for it. You know, since I'm thinking about skydiving today, it strikes me that Southerners and skydivers have a lot in common.

Sunday Aircraft blogging

I made my second jump off the tail end of a Casa at this drop zone. They don't run the Casa there now so I cribbed the graphic from another site but the photo pretty much sums up the experience of walking off a tailgate into thin air. Of course I had zero instruction before I made the skydive. I only got to jump because the guy that was supposed to go chickened out at the very last minute. I was literally pulling on the jump suit as I ran to the plane.

I made the jump with this guy. Actually I made all three of my jumps with Dave. He and Chapin were friends and I was touring Florida drop zones with them for the month of January back in '90.

I didn't so so well on the exit of that one. I was surprised when I hit the pocket of dead air behind the plane so it took a while to get positioned. Actually, Dave may have kicked me into position but it was a long and exciting freefall. I forget the alititude and unfortunately, I'll never know. My logbook and all my photographs were stolen a couple of years later when I moved to Atlanta.

What's in a name?

Scott Henson answers the question, What's the difference between a pirate and a privateer? Kind of like asking what's the difference between a prohibitionist and a profiteer?

A rousing discussion in the Grits' comment section ensues. Fascinating


Yet another another silly smoker story.
Hans-Juergen Bendt, 52, from Darmstadt, lodged a complaint about his dealer with police after he sold him seven ounces of "completely un-enjoyable" hash. Bendt complained the dealer refused to refund him the £270 he had paid for the drugs.
Unsurprisingly, the police refused to pursue the case and Bendt was arrested for illegal purchase and possession. Maybe he forgot he was living in Germany, not Holland.

Common sense in Canadian court

All is not dark in the far north. In contrast to the story below, this one would seem to indicate there's at least some sanity left in their court system.

Police busted a marijuana grow-op, seizing almost 600 plants. It's a pretty open and shut case except, the police caught the Vietnamese grower on the basis of a fishing expedition after combing land records to target home purchases by Asians. I guess this judge still believes in civil rights.
"It is a stereotypical assumption that because some grow operations have been run by East Asians, that anyone purchasing a new home who is Vietnamese must be conducting a grow operation," Mr. Justice Kruzick ruled, further noting that convicting Nguyen would have the effect of condoning racial profiling and would have brought the administration of justice into disrepute.

There is a growing realization that racial profiling, by which police ascribe certain criminal behaviours to members of identifiable groups, is not only odious, but also risky and ineffective. The fact that some officers continue to judge people based on "a stereotypical assumption," in Mr. Justice Kruzick's words, is troubling.
Some would say, so what - the guy was doing something illegal but if we dispense punishment at the expense of justice, we lose the respect for humanity that sets us apart from mere savages. The Toronto Star says it well. "True justice is blind; it knows not colour, race, gender or creed. Mr. Justice Kruzick deserves praise for reinforcing this vital legal principle."
[ht Tim Meehan]

Nonsense in the North

Canada seems to be descending into the same prohibition insanity that afflicts our own government. Just look at the police resources wasted on this bust.
Ten officers, a police dog, several police cruisers and a helicopter were used to arrest 13 high school students at a popular lunchtime hangout near Northumberland Regional High School in Alma.
Police had watched student activity at a convenience store near the school for two weeks prior to Friday’s arrests, said Cpl. Al Affleck. "We didn’t need to get a complaint," he said, explaining that community rumours prompted the investigation.
And what kind of nefarious criminals required this extreme response and gross expenditure of law enforcement resources, in order to "protect" the Canadian public?
By late afternoon, the parade of suspects through the Pictou RCMP detachment included four students under 17, eight 18-year-olds and a 19-year-old.
Don't you think it was a little excessive to send in a SWAT team for kids taking a toke at lunchtime? It's not like there were any complaints of violence related to these kids. In more civilized times, they would have been rounded up by a couple of cops and taken home for their parents to deal with, instead of being saddled with a criminal record for life over teenage experimentation.
[ht Tim Meehan]

Weedman headed for greener pastures

Ed Forchion, the NJ Weedman has a new gig. He'll be leaving the State of New Jersey with one less Rastafarian to kick around and is heading to Hollywood to work in a medical marijuana dispensary. Although it won't eliminate it altogether, since the feds are still working against state laws and busting sick people sanctioned by the state to possess their medicine, the odds have gone down that he will be arrested for practicing his religion.
So for Forchion, who also said he hopes his move to Hollywood could start a new career in show business, it seems his life has come full circle.

“What I’m doing is ironic,” he said. “Basically I became known and all this started because I got busted selling weed. Now I’m going to California and I’m going to do it legally.”
We wish him the best of luck.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Let's talk about it

Not only is Blogger eating posts but the blog also seems to be hiccuping comments into the wrong places. I'm happy to see GuyK show up to remark on this post, even though his comments ended up on this unrelated one. I answered him there but if anyone else wants to weigh in here, I'd just ask that you be nice. He's a little gruff but I like Guy and I'd like to get him engaged in the conversation.

Gotta love this platform

Another first in the ongoing mid-life crisis of Blogger. It just ate this post that I put up this morning. I mean it was there all morning and when I published the last one, it was gone without a trace. I'm trying again to see what happens. At least this time it uploaded the photo of these daffodils in my front yard.

When I took that yesterday, it was so warm I had the doors open all day. Today, it's the 40s and for a while there it was snowing for the first time all winter. Just like New England except the snow didn't stick.

Signs of the times

This is funny. Here's an update on this post about those disappearing no toking signs in Amsterdam. JackL is back from vacation and discovered some enterprising entrepreneur has already put up a rival site, selling knockoffs. They also offer an alternative please toke sign edged in green and will soon have tshirts, mugs and one assumes mouse pads at some point. It's worth visiting just for the flash animation.

This site looks more official but I have a feeling it's another rival site even though they acknowledge the profits are to go to a drug rehab center, it just doesn't feel right to me. Not reading Dutch myself, I can't say for sure but as far as I can tell, the official site is still here, accessed from the city's main page.

I'm predicting the noblowbord site will corner the market based solely on the slick website and the cheaper price. The city is going to have to do some aggressive marketing if it hopes to beat that. Unfortunately, the losers will be the rehab who will get less money. One hopes the rip-off sites will at least donate some profits if the business takes off.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Wooldridge v. Fay

Too funny. Howard checks in with a postscript to his weekly newsletter.

On the last day of the CPAC conference I stopped by the booth of Partnership for Drug Free America. I wanted to enlist their possible support for arrest free 911 calls for alcohol and drug overdoses = saving lives inside of drug prohibition. Before I had 5 words out, a woman stepped up to me and said if I did not leave the booth area immediately, she would have hotel security escort me away. “Just tryin’ to save lives ma’am.” I said as I walked away shaking my head. I learned yesterday that the woman was Calvina Fay, Exec. Director of Drug Free America Foundation. I have met the enemy & she has met LEAP.

Ethan Nadelmann addressed the conference in a plenary debate on marijuana prohibition. He used conservative arguments to end the policy while the other side used an essentially nanny-state liberal approach of having my profession run around and pull marijuana out of people’s mouths. Mr. Nadelmann and I could not present two more different images to drug reform. I believe we had an impact on the attendees.

Guess you can't blame the old girl for being cranky. When we win, she's out of a very well paying job.

News you can use

DRC's weekly Drug War Chronicle arrived early and is full of interesting items as always. This week's corrupt cops feature is a must read. My personal favorite:
In Houston, two federal air marshals were arrested February 9 and held on suspicion of involvement in possessing or smuggling cocaine. Shawn Ray Nguyen, 38, and Burlie Sholar III, 32, were arrested by agents of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's Office after receiving more than 30 pounds of cocaine and $15,000 in "front money" from an undercover informant. The pair agreed to transport the drugs on an airline flight, federal officials said. They agreed to use their official positions to bypass airport security and fly the coke from Houston to Las Vegas, the US Attorney's office explained. One of those arrested is a former DEA agent, Time magazine reported. The pair were formally charged Monday in federal court in Houston.
If well paid law enforcers can't resist the temptation of blcak market money, how are ordinary citizens who often have no other means of making a decent living supposed to resist?

Meanwhile, a judge inArgentina ruled a tough provincial law penalizing drug possession violates the South American republic's constitution. Too bad our own politician's don't see the sense in that. Anybody who wants to blame Republicans for the war on some drugs should read this.

The Democratic Party is no longer the party of the people. Bad enough they spend their time reading focus polls and looking like incompetent ninnies because they keep changing their stance on issues based on the weekly polls, they think they're going to score some political points with "tough on crime" talk?
Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mark Dayton (D-MN), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have all loudly called for restored funding for the program, even though the Office of Management and Budget has found it is a failure and taxpayer watchdog groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union have described it as little more than "pork barrel spending." All three senators called the grants essential "for a rural state" and cited the much-hyped methamphetamine "epidemic" as the reason the program must continue.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was the latest to jump on the JAG bandwagon. In a press release last Friday, Reid joined his Democratic colleagues in criticizing the proposed cuts, and he hit the same talking points. "Once again, President Bush's budget will inhibit the ability of first responders to prepare for new threats and law enforcement to combat the growing methamphetamine problem," he said, adding that the programs are "specifically designed to assist rural communities."

Reid attacked the Bush budget not only on the JAG program, but also for proposing deep cuts in the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, which, Reid noted, helps "combat methamphetamine use and distribution," among other things. And while the Bush budget proposes $40 for a Methamphetamine Cleanup Program, that isn't enough, Reid said.
The one issue that cuts across partisan lines and they think they can make hay with going against these cuts to failed programs? You would think a party so in love with polls would notice they're running in favor of reform. What flipping idiots. Why don't you send them an email and ask them to get a grip.

Pot bigger than cherries in WA state

As usual, I think they're over-valuing the haul. It's been a long time since I've seen an actual plant but I haven't seen a picture of one that looked like it would yield almost a pound of saleable buds. Maybe they value at the wet weight and include the stalks. Nonetheless, it's interesting that just what they confiscated represents the 8th most valuable agricultural commodity in Washington state, edging out their famous cherry crop.

For non-consumers who wonder what benefit legalization would be to them, think tax revenues. Think law enforcement hours spent on crime instead of plant patrol. Think spin-off industries that create jobs. Then think about legalizing again.

Getting well is better than never having been sick at all

I'm almost over this cold. I'm at the point where it's moved from my head into my chest and I'm hacking up all sorts of interesting stuff into the kleenex. Am I the only one that feels compelled to look at it before I fold the kleenex up and throw it away? I mean it's gross but I can judge my progress by what color it is.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Lovely downtown Noho

I'm really liking the photo galleries at masslive.com's new Northampton section. The famous Truck Eating Bridge was just down the block from my office. It's been in a movie, but its claim to fame is its uncanny ability to seduce unwary truck drivers into embarassing accidents. It obviously has a really low clearance and it's well marked. You would figure a driver would know how tall his rig is, yet no less than once a month and often many times more, a big ass semi will get stuck under the thing.

You have to wonder if the bridge calls out to them, like the Sirens. You can almost hear it singing.... come on, you can make it, don't stop, come to me..... How else to explain the drivers that keep going until the top of their trailer is folded up like an accordian, while some manage to stop in time for a simple tow to extricate the rig?

From a spectator's standpoint though, the dumber the driver, the more entertainment value in the rescue efforts. I always felt bad for the poor guys, stuck in the middle of Main Street talking to a cop, while the traffic backs up and the crowd assembles to view their folly from the sidewalk.

Nonetheless, over 18 years, I've had of hours of fun watching this bridge claim its victims. But the best show was the time we had a tremendous thunderstorm downtown. It was an absolute deluge and the underpass flooded waist deep for a couple of hours. All the cars parked under the bridge, were floating in the water. But that's a story for another day. It's a beautiful afternoon. I think I'll go out for a walk.

Graphic shamelessly stolen from Kelsey.

Moose on the loose are no laughing matter

Some people would say this is a waste of money, but I'm glad to see this research being started. In the ten years I lived in lovely downtown Noho, there were moose sightings within a mile of town several times. One of them was only a couple of blocks away from where I lived in the city center.

A pissed off moose is nothing to fool around with. My brother in Alaska was charged by a full grown bull once when he was retreiving his mail, and his dog literally saved his life. It's good they're figuring out their range and how they're able to survive the hot summers so far south of their natural habitat. One might speculate 800 moose can thrive in MA because they became slowly acclimated as a result of the warmer weather for longer periods of time in the arctic zones, caused by climate disruption.

And in other developments...

As long as I'm making my long overdue run through the policy blogs, Pete has a bunch of new posts of interest. The Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed a medical marijuana bill hot on the heels of a new poll showing public support for the measure running about 2-1 in favor. It's not over yet of course, but a heartening development for the sick patients that would benefit from this medicine.

Pete's also already on the sad developments in New Mexico where a similar bill was passed through the Senate there but then sent to die an ignomious death in the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee. This comes as a direct result of meddling by our taxpayer funded prohibitionists, who spent your money to defeat the will of the people in order to keep their own cushy jobs safe.

Meanwhile, I'm just stealing this link outright. A short video clip showing what happens when you give LSD to men who are supposed to go out and kill. Makes a mockery of the contention that psychedelic drugs make you violent. Priceless.

Charting our progress

Marijuana Policy Project sends a release outlining the lastest developments from the front lines drug policy reform, beginning with Mark Souder's scurrilous attacks from the House floor on Rob Kampia's having been asked to moderate a policy reform panel at the CPAC conference. Pete at Drug WarRant already has this covered so I won't go into it any further than to say I think Kaptinemo is onto to something when he suggests we should start suing these idiots for making false and slanderous statements on the public record. But as I've said before, it's still a good sign that the prohibs are reduced to such pathetic lies in order to defend their taxpayer funded gravy train.

There's good news in this release though and it's useful to see how far we've come in the last year.

* Congress cut $20 million from the White House drug czar's nonsensical ad campaign.

* Congress cut $210 million from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, this being the program that funds all those ethically challenged drug task forces.

* Congress cut $100 million from the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program, a program that is partly used to bribe schools into employing warrantless pee testing of teenagers in public schools.

* Congress modified the ill-advised HEA Act, now exempting prior convictions from impacting student educational assistance grants. We have still a way to go on this one since they retained the provision that penalizes students with minor drug convictions while in school while ignoring alcohol related crimes. I have faith the tireless young people at SSDP will continue to hammer some sense into Congress on this issue.

* MPP played a major role in drafting language in the transportation infrastructure bill that was enacted with a requirement that the federal government study the varying levels of impairment caused by the use of marijuana and other illicit drugs. This is a change from the zero-tolerance approach used by the drug warriors (where the presence of THC in the body is taken to be proof of impairment, even if the THC is from days or weeks earlier).

Of course, not all news is good. The bill that funds the U.S. Justice Department gave $5 million to a marijuana eradication program and $1.7 billion to the Drug Enforcement Administration. And our favorite drug czar just unveiled his new budget request for $20 billion on drug war spending that he will probably receive.

Nonetheless, on the balance, it's been a positive year. We're making a difference and every day it becomes a little easier to believe we'll see sensible drug policy in our lifetimes.

Life is short, and long

Shortly before I left the law firm, one of the partners was diagnosed with leukemia. Now I had been there so long, the partners were like part of my extended family so it made the choice to leave town all the more distressing. For weeks, I didn't get any news and I was left almost a thousand miles away, to worry in lonely solitude. When he got the blood transplant, they found the cancer center had a blogging platform made available to the patients called Caring Bridge and started a blog of their own. It was such a relief to keep up on developments without feeling like you were burdening them with inquiries and the comment section became a community of friends and family, pulling together to offer moral support.

It's been over a year now and they don't post as much now that Jonathan is in the stage of treatment where one just wants for improvement and lives through the discomforts of graft host diseases. Nonetheless, I check the blog first thing every morning. Almost dying has changed him. He's become more thoughtful, somehow more deep, although he was never shallow. And now he has time to be more creative. He wrote this poem that I found so moving that I'm going to reproduce it here. The formatting isn't quite right in this font but it's good advice for all us, even if we're not facing such an uncertain future.

Approaching 60

As we approach 60:
Death is in the air,
Illness is in the air,
Pain is in the air,
Loss is in the air.

As we approach 60:
Marriages are in the air,
Grandchildren are in the air,
Wisdom is in the air,
Intentionality is in the air.

Most of us will live for twenty more years; some for forty; whether we want to or not.
Some with more joy than sadness,
Some with more sadness than joy;
Most with an uncontrollable mixture of ineffable sadness and wondrous joy.

Sixty is a construct; it does not exist; you cannot see it.
On your sixtieth birthday you are no different than the day before or the day after;
And the death, illness, pain, loss reminds us that while 60 does not exist, neither do we,
Except in relationship to the world and those around us; and
That now is the time to savor those marriages, grandchildren, wisdom
and intentionality
which so many never experience or appreciate, and
Which we won’t experience again, once the curtain falls on the final act of this play.

By Jonathan Zachary Souweine

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Small stuff

These odd items via Scott Brodeur's blog at MassLive. Rather fitting since Scott and I had a rather odd, brief and acrimonious relationship. In fact if you google "Scott Brodeur's butt" , to this day I am still number one hit. Nonetheless, I still read his blog and these caught my eye.

I used to love it as a teenager, but I'm not much for celebrity gossip these days and I don't even know who half these people are; nonetheless, I love good photographs so maybe I'll get the new issue of Vanity Fair.

Never too early to start thinking about baseball. A nice profile piece on the man who is sure to become the next sensation of the Red Sox Nation, based solely on his name -- Coco Crisp. Interesting guy. I didn't know he owns a music label and he's the son of Tony Orlando - yep the guy who tied the yellow ribbon around the old oak tree. Sure hope he can play ball. Could make for a fun season. I can just imagine the fun the fans will have with his name.

Death - the final rehabilitation

This story is disturbing. When they started these "boot camps" for juvenile offenders, they were supposed to be programs to "scare them straight," to keep them from reoffending and teach them some self-discipline to keep them out of jail in the future. Killing them will certainly satisfy the recidivism goal but it hardly contributes to a civilized society.

Subjecting teenagers to sadistic handlers will not rehabilitate them
and one has to think that the victim's fellow inmates will not leave the program imbued with a love for the sanctity of the law when they witness adults in power literally getting away with murder. "

Three teenagers have died in state custody in the last three years
." The investigations clearly favor the guards since no arrests or lawsuits have been reported, but then these are just poor black kids who are being killed by homicidal maniacs in uniforms. It's not surprising that the video tape is being suppressed by Jeb Bush's government forces.
The video, which recorded the last 20 to 30 minutes of the teen's stay at the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp, shows officers at times kicking, punching and choking Martin Lee Anderson after he refused, or was unable, to comply with officers' orders to run or do other exercises, the legislators said.

Martin, of Panama City, died Jan. 6 at Pensacola's Sacred Heart Hospital, hours after he was admitted to the boot camp, which is operated under a contract with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. [...]

Clearly shaken, state Rep. Gus Barreiro told The Miami Herald that the tape depicted ''the most heinous treatment of a human being'' he had ever seen. ``It was obvious to me the kid was unconscious, and they were still abusing him. People will be outraged when they see this tape, and they should be outraged.

This is not even the worst of the description of the footage.
One officer is seen with his knee pushing into his back. Though the tape contains no sound, the officers appear to be yelling at the teen, Barreiro said.

After a minute or two, Martin stands up and attempts to run around the camp's track, Barreiro said. Officers ''rush'' to hold him up against the wooden fence, ''with his arms spread out like a crucifix,'' Barreiro said. Then four guards are seen holding Martin to the ground, with one officer pushing his knee into the youth's back.

As Martin gets up to run again, he is clearly ''stumbling,'' unable to run or walk, Barreiro said.
The video was also shown to high level members of Gov. Jeb Bush's office who declined to comment other than to say, ''We believe, in good faith, that this video is not a public record at this time,'' said FDLE spokesman Tom Berlinger. Meaning it's so bad they won't let anyone else see it.

The family's attorney, described [the victim], Martin, as ''a good kid'' who made honor roll on his last report card, and played basketball for his school team. He was a 14 year old who behaved like a typical stupid teenager and took his gramma's car out for a joyride while she was in church and crashed it. Gramma didn't want to press charges, the state did and her grandson ultimately received a death sentence. I doubt Grammy feels justice was served.

I surely don't.

Trading addictions is not a solution

It's this kind of research that enriches pharmaceutical companies and gives science a bad name.
Researchers in Saskatchewan have discovered a way to block a pathway in the brain's pleasure receptors that are involved in drug addiction. The team hopes the findings will lead to a universal therapy that works regardless of what drug an addict abuses.

So far, Canadian scientists have found a peptide that appears to block a signalling pathway in the brain's ventral tegmental area, an area stimulated by drug abuse.
So they want to develop a drug they can sell to medical providers in order to keep people from desiring drugs Big Pharma doesn't control. Better they invest in treatment programs that teach people to make choices against drug abuse, not studies to figure out how to substitute one drug for another. But here's the money quote in the article.
The molecule also showed a downside, in that it not only prevents highs from drugs, but also prevents enjoyment from other pleasures such as food and sex.
Somehow replacing addicts with a population of zombies who can't feel anything, perhaps not even remorse for bad behavior, doesn't sound like progress to me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wooldridge's Washington Weekly Report

Unfortunately, it appears this will be the last one until September so I'm going to reprint it in full. It speaks for itself

Conundrum of the Week:

Over the weekend I attended the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) convention at a DC hotel. Wearing SOP LEAP attire (dress pants, dress shirt, tie + LEAP t-shirt over dress shirt) and with my personal added touch of huge cowboy hat and large buckle, let us just say I was noticed. I engaged in many conversations. When accused of being a liberal I would reply, “Oh no. On this issue I am the conservative. I believe in Liberty, Privacy Rights and Personal Responsibility.” Almost everyone came back (as an accusation) “You are not a conservative. You are a Libertarian.” My response: so, you being a conservative, what do you believe OTHER THAN liberty, privacy rights and personal responsibility? That question had them tripping on their own words & beliefs. It was fun.

I spent the week in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rob Ryan and crew had me hopping almost 24/7. I met with about a dozen state reps, senators and candidates for Congress. Besides the 1 minute, condensed Rotary speech, I offered each of them personal training on how to articulate any policy of drug reform which they supported already or might in the future. I attended a 600 person, one day conference of the leaders of Cincinnati. I was very impressed with the number of African –Americans who expressed SUPPORT for the LEAP position. The most memorable part of the trip was having a WB network reporter and camera man follow me down the sidewalk of the Over the Rhine area of Cincinnati. OTR was the scene of rioting a few years back. My cowboy hat and shirt attracted enough attention to generate a half dozen good conversations which the TV station later made into 2 long (almost 3 minute) reports.

On the other hand:

I just received notice that effective 15 February I will be coordinating a national publicity campaign directed at bringing information and pressure to stop the daily, unarmed invasion of illegals who pour across our borders. This full-time, temporary position will last until about 15 September 2006.

Therefore, with a heavy sigh and heart, I must drastically curtail my activities on behalf of LEAP here in DC. I will still be an active LEAP Board member and will attend any appropriate conferences in the DC area. I will fulfill previous commitments to a tour of MI, OH and St. Louis in late March and April. I will cease my education efforts on Capitol Hill effective tomorrow.

I have known about this potential position for several months. I know LEAP has tried hard during that time to find funding for my DC efforts, unfortunately w/o any success. As most of you know, my small police pension does not kick in until I turn 59. I have to work for money at least another 6 years before I can work for free.

I will resume this newsletter in late September. The money earned from this temporary position will allow me to stay in DC thru at least June of 2007. I won’t be shy. If you know anyone who believes my educational efforts on behalf of LEAP are valuable, pledges of financial support starting in September will put me back on track. I need 3,000 a month which will cover a modest existence for me and carrots for Misty.

I can't think of a worthier cause. Howard is a hell of an educator.

Small world

I was sort of missing snow while I watched the TV coverage. I had this moment of nostalgia for watching a nor'easter blow outside the bay windows from the warmth of my old apartment and then trudging through the sparkling white landscape of downtown when it was over. I don't know how I ended up at Flicker looking at pictures of the blizzard, but I spent quite a while looking at people's albums. I'm weird that way. I love other people's vacation pictures and home movies. I was looking for shots of Noho but found a lot of nice shots from NYC instead. Oddly, this guy's album covered my old stomping grounds in the West Village in the early 70s. I stayed in the building in the graphic. I'm sure it's the place on Bedford, just off Christopher that my friend had an apartment in. I've been on the roof of that building.

I found a lot of other nice shots too. A bench in Central Park. A sweet little snowman or maybe snow bum. A stunning shot of a waterfall in Central Park. And a reminder why you don't want a car in the city.

I also found this portfolio with only two blizzard pictures but this Willow person is a great photographer and I liked the shots. It felt like it could be an album of my own life.

May I have a blogroll please

What a lost day. I can't believe it's already after 5:00. I'm off for the next week so I slept in because I could and have been putzing around all afternoon. I got some work done on the template though. You'll notice I've added a few members to the blogroll. Please check them out from the sidebar. Under right wing is the Just Charming GuyK. It took me a while to warm up to him, his politics are way right of mine and he often sets my teeth on edge with his political posts but you get past the political disagreements and I think he's a pretty cool guy. He's opinionated but he's not mean and it's hard not to like a guy who obviously loves his wife so much. (Sis, I think you will really like his redneck jokes.) Also added to right wing blogs is Hog on Ice, who doesn't do a lot of politics, but Steve H is a fine writer who is alternately very funny or very moving. Dennis the Peasant couldn't be any more right wing and frankly, I started reading him for the Pajama Media gossip but he's proved to be an independent voice politically and I love rebels.

Under Drunks and Poets, I've added Catfish, Dax Montana, d'Ellison, Straight White Guy and Velociman. They're all pretty much right wingers as well but they're straight talking, slice of life bloggers and over time they've all grown on me for one reason or another. Catfish and Dax are very Southern but in different ways, Ellison is very Jewish but somehow fits in and Velociman can't really be explained - you just have to experience him. The SWG is also an acquired taste and I have to admit I don't read him every day. Sometimes I just can't face all those ellipses... Nonetheless, all the new additions are fine writers with original voices so check them out for yourselves.

Update: Since I posted this I've already managed to irritate Dennis the Peasant and piss off Hog on Ice, who decided to blog on politics this morning.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Is prohibition becoming a dirty word?

Scott Henson from Grits for Breakfast checks in with a good post, The End of Ideology on the War on Drugs, or the Beginning of Consensus? He points us to this press release from Drug Policy Alliance that notes the call for reform has jumped across the ideological aisle.
As the war on drugs continues to waste taxpayer money, destroy families, and undermine the rule of law, more and more conservatives are speaking out. The Republican Study Committee (RSC), a Congressional caucus composed of more than 100 conservative House Republicans, recently came out for eliminating a number of failed drug war programs, including the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, the Safe and Drug-Free School programs, and the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Last year, the American Conservative Union, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, and the National Taxpayers Union urged Congress to eliminate six failed drug war programs to save money in the wake of Katrina. Those programs included the three programs RSC targeted for elimination, as well as student drug testing grants, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, and the Andean Counterdrug Initiative (aka Plan Colombia).
Scott ruminates on a conference he attended last year where he also noticed this trend among conservatives. Although we come to the table from different directions, the obvious wastefulness of the war on some drugs has become so apparent to everyone, that it's becoming impossible for the politicians to ignore. Scott sums it up well.
I wrote last week how I was struck by Dan Kahan's argument that successful policy goals must be ambiguous to reach consensus - that different people had to be able to tell different stories to explain the outcome, to reach the same conclusion from different perspectives. That's what's happening, to my mind, on the drug war. There are now so many reasons to think our current approach is a bad idea, nearly anybody can join in the fun of criticizing it.
My own experience bears this out. Outside of a handful of zealots and those who profit from it, the folly of prohibition has become difficult to support. One hopes in these times of budgetary belt tightening in our government, our leglislators will finally get on board and defund these useless programs.

Say hello

Award winning freelance journalist Marie Coady doesn't have a blog and she's not a drug policy reformer, but she does have a new website that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about Woburn, MA from its history to its present day and a lot about Scottish genealogy. Go on over and sign her guest book.

Truth is stranger than fiction

You can't make this stuff up but it's hard to believe anyone could be this dumb.

"A young lady called the West Fargo Police Department and asked the dispatcher if he knew where there was marijuana," Officer Ken Zeeb said.

The dispatcher told her it was illegal, but she insisted, and police then told her they had some in the evidence locker, Zeeb said. The 20-year-old Fargo woman showed up at police headquarters a short time later, and gave the dispatcher $3 to buy pot, he said.

She was arrested on charges of criminal attempt and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The cop said she didn't seem drunk so I expect her defense will be not guilty by reason of mental defect.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday aircraft blogging

If I was a millionaire aeronautical daredevil, I would have already had a ride on SpaceShipOne. How cool would it be to fly in this baby?

[via James van Etten's excellent weekly Flight Times]

Calvina Fay runs away from debate

I'm late getting to this but it is amusing that Drug Free America's Calvina Fay backed out of a panel discussion because she would have been forced to back her propaganda with facts in a ten minute debate. From MPP's press release:
Kincaid reported that Fay cancelled her scheduled debate because it "had been stacked against her." However, during a Monday phone conversation with MPP Director of Government Relations Aaron Houston, Fay's Director of Communications Lana Beck told Houston that Fay had cancelled because she did not want to engage in a back-and-forth debate, and would only accept under the condition that each side give five-minute speeches, without openings, rebuttals or closings for each speaker, as is the standard for CPAC "mini debates."
Think about that. Their "arguments" for prohibition are so weak they can't stand up for ten minutes and defend them when challenged to present unbiased facts. Meanwhile, Cliff Kincaid proves to be a useful stooge for the professional prohibbers, with his false and stenographic ode on behalf of the ONDCP.
Nevertheless, Rep. Souder on Wednesday took to the House floor and compared MPP representatives to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, citing Kincaid's report and submitting it into the Congressional Record. Souder's floor statement contained factual errors related to the details of the debate, and excoriated CPAC organizers for even allowing such a debate to occur.
Kaptinemo has been pushing the idea of filing defamation lawsuits against these drug war warriors now that they've been reduced to slanderous attacks on reformers. I think that's a good idea, but I'm also thinking that we could send a big message to the prohibititionists if we could unseat Souder in the next election. I would love to see a pro-reform candidate come forward and beat the pants off him.

Drug czar's desperation shows

Marijuana Policy Project sums up the recent release of the drug czar's unapologetic use of the taxpayer's money to campaign against common sense reform in drug policy. From the press release:
"This document signals that the administration will continue using tax dollars to campaign against common-sense reforms, while wasting billions on failed policies," said MPP Director of Government Relations Aaron Houston. "It is not a coincidence that John Walters took his junket to Denver, where voters dealt a stinging rebuke to the government's war on marijuana."

On Jan. 27, Walters' special assistant, David Murray, testified against medical marijuana legislation in New Mexico's Senate, but was sharply rebuffed by state legislators. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported, "Some of Murray's toughest criticism came from Republicans," and the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 34-6.

"While Walters continues to rail against supposed 'well-funded drug legalizers,' our efforts are dwarfed by the government's massive prohibition bureaucracy," Houston said. "The drug czar's office spends over four times as much on advertising alone as drug policy reform groups spend on everything we do put together -- salaries, rent, the whole works." A comparison of government drug- war budgets to those of reform groups is available here.
We've got them on the run folks. That the prohibitionists are reduced to personal insults is a sign of just how ineffective their propaganda has become and how effective the reform community has been in getting the truth out.

Why don't we fly away...

I'm so glad I have the day off. My ramen soup cure failed me and there's no denying I have a full fledged head cold. I slept for 12 hours and I still feel like shit. I got a sinus headache that aspirin won't touch and my nose is running non-stop. Yeah, I know I could take pills but they just dope me up and postpone the inevitable. But enough whining. Nothing to do but live through it and I shouldn't be such a baby anyway. It's been a couple of years since I've had such a bad cold. So moving on...

Next lifetime, I want to be a millionaire aeronautical daredevil. Congratulations Steve Fossett for setting yet another flight record. Sounds like it was quite a ride in his crazy experimental plane and a very scary landing.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sick day

Damn. I've come down with a head cold. I having some chicken soup and going to bed. I'm off tomorrow. I'll be back.

Justice served in Chicago

I can't wait for a day off. I'm still working this ungodly rotation and just passed out last night at 8:00. The sleep didn't do a thing for the fatigue. I just don't feel rested when I have to get up before the sun does, no matter how many hours I sleep. Worse yet I woke up with what I think is the beginnings of a head cold. But enough whining, here's a fun post from Flex Your Rights.

Scott Morgan looks at suing the government for fun and profit. Yes, occassionally justice is served in our court system and 87 women of color who were wrongfully searched at O'Hare airport won a almost 2 million dollar judgement against the government. DHS won't admit they did anything wrong but promise not to do it again anyway. Meanwhile, 20 nursing students who were illegally searched at a state-run vocational school after a classmate alleged she had been robbed of a credit card have filed suit that could result in a significant monetary judgement. It seems they have a good case since the girl whose card was "stolen" later found it in her car after her classmates were illegally searched.

I'm not a litigious person and I think there's too many frivolous lawsuits filed in this country but in cases like these, I'm with Scott - sue the bastards. Our government has already violated our civil rights for years under the auspices of the war on some drugs. Since 9/11 it's only become worse as they seek to conflate drugs and terrorism. Good for the brave souls who will litigate when they've become victims of over zealous vigilantes law enforcement.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A little lesson in prohibition

This vodka shortage is due to government incompetence, not prohibition per se, but the effect is the same and here's the lesson in it.
"Could Russia completely run out of vodka in 40 days?" was the apocalyptic front-page headline of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper yesterday, which published advice from a panel of politicians and celebrities on how to live without vodka and a cartoon of a man wringing a bottle of vodka as if it were wet laundry so as to extract every last drop. Although supermarket shelves are not yet denuded of the Russian national drink, manufacturers have warned that people are rapidly drinking what is left over from 2005, and that stocks will not last indefinitely. They have also warned that supplies of bootleg vodka, which has a record of poisoning, blinding and killing people, are increasing as black marketeers rush to fill the vacuum.
[Emphasis mine.] Supply will always rise to fill a demand, legal or illegal.

What does it all mean?

I'm in a state of serious fatigue here this morning. I can't deal with news yet but here's a little meme that's easy for the brain drained. They call it a quiz but all you have to do is remember your birthday. Here's my fortune.
You are a born idealist, with more pet causes than you can count. You prefer be around others, both when working and while relaxing. Generous and giving, you believe you can change the world one person at a time. You're open minded and tolerant. People feel like they can tell you anything

Your strength: Your go-with-the-flow flexibility

Your weakness: Your flair for the over dramatic

Your power color: Pine green

Your power symbol: Circle

Your power month: September
I'd say it's pretty right on except September is often a difficult month for me. Try it for yourself.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Night off

Sorry kids, it's been a really long day and I've got another early call in the am. All I could manage tonight was a cross posted rant on my poliblogs about the stupid cartoon debacle. I feel sure that Pete at Drug WarRant, not to mention the other find blogs on the side bar have the Drug Czar's unveiling of his new vision of the war on some drugs, set against the backdrop of lovely downtown Denver, the home of the newly passed marijuana initiative.

Just coincidence of course. They must have been evacuating his DC offices so he just had to fly to Colorado to give this press conference.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Fan mail from some flounder

Cliff Kincaid is at it again with this little ditty, Soros Infliltrates Conservative Movement.
Calvina Fay of the Drug Free America Foundation has pulled out as a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which begins in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, because a “mini-debate” she was scheduled to appear in had been stacked against her. As it now stands, the event will feature two advocates of drug legalization, both of them funded by leftist billionaire and anti-Bush activist George Soros.
Aw, the Cruella DeVille of the prohibition can't take the heat and Cliffie thinks it's just awful that CPAC would subject her to such cruel and unusual punishment as having to defend her talking points with actual facts. The rest of the piece is uproariously funny if you read it as a satire. My favorite line.
You won’t need an NSA surveillance program to know what’s going on in the Playboy Mansion on March 30.
Unfortunately, our champion of the pee testers is dead serious. The good news is, as we get the facts out, his antiquated alarmist rhetoric ringing hollow in educated ears. It can only be a good sign that Ethan Nadelmann and Rob Kampia are there and Cliff isn't.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Very interesting

ExPat Brian blogging from Singapore takes us back to the 60s and the Vietnam War. He tells of his own encounters of the military surveillance kind. Interestingly, although he openly smoked a lot of marijuana, as did most of the soldiers there, he was under investigation for most of the time he spent in the service for listening to Bob Dylan.

The Wooldridge Washington Weekly

This just in from our intrepid reform lobbyist inside the Beltway.
SURPRISE OF THE WEEK: On Thursday I flew into Dayton, OH for a week of politikin. Local dynamo Rob Ryan (Republicans for Compassionate Access) had me attend a Democratic Forum in Cincinnati. The featured speaker was TV personality Mr. Jerry Springer. After chatting with a large number of state reps, senators and a local Dem candidate for Congress I sat down to hear Mr. Springer. WOW. This former mayor of Cincinnati was one of the more articulate, insightful speakers I have ever heard. Later we met briefly and he stated he would have me on his radio show.

I had a slow week of catching up on paper work, until flying into Dayton. Thursday and Friday were filled with radio & TV interviews, meeting politicians and command police officers. I did everything but kiss a baby. Next week promises to be more of the same. Thanks Rob for all your hard work. As one who has booked his own Rotaries, I deeply appreciate those who work behind the scenes to put me in the public spotlight or in front of a VIP. And yes, after all the media attention of the Ride Across America, I may have had a little withdrawal problem from not being on TV the last 3 months. LOL
That's a habit we should all be working to feed. Keep in mind my dear readers, that if you see an situation crying out for some LEAP commentary, they have well over 100 speakers ready and able to speak for reform. Feel free to email me tips and I'll even do the contact work for you.

Travelogue - Costa Rica

Regular readers may have noticed I'm posting more pictures lately. When I started the blog I was clueless. Once I learned to upload pictures, I posted a lot of them but I hotlinked for months before I realized that was a bad thing to do. So I opened an account at Photobucket so I could just steal the graphic without stealing the bandwidth. But the process is cumbersome so I didn't post as many pix. I just discovered, that the "new" button on the compose post screen (the one that's been up there for months) will upload directly from my C drive. So now that it only takes seconds to insert the graphics, I'm able to post pix again.

I've been itching to travel again lately. When I lived up north, I almost always tried to get away for the month of February. That's not really an option for me these days, but I decided I could scratch that itch by reliving my past journeys. So for the first of what might become a series. Here's part of my Costa Rican odyssey.

The Hotel Britannia in San Jose was our home base in Costa Rica. We stayed there between excursions. Nice hotel, very authentic and in a safe part of town. It's pinker than it looks in the photo.

From there we hired a car and driver to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We stayed in the Hotel Belmar. Nice place. Not too fancy but it felt like being in a Swiss chalet. The day we hiked the forest we stopped for dinner at a restaurant just outside the entrance. The food was great and we stayed so long we had to walk home 7 kilometers on a rutted dirt road in the pitch dark. The only light was from the stars. It was enough. Orion never looked so close.

We took a day trip to the volcano at Arenal. To get there, we had to first drive for about two hours on really rutted goat paths, in this smallish jeep-like vehicle. Eight of us were stuffed into it check to jowl, 6 tourists and the two locals. Then we still had to get across the whole length the lake. We scrambled into a long flat bottom boat with a canopy running the length of it. On a good day it takes about forty minutes and the sun was shining brightly when we launched. About 15 minutes out a huge squall blew in with gale force winds and pouring rain. It took us about another hour and a half to get to the volcano.

The rain had stopped by the time we landed but it was a welcome relief after the chilly ride to have dinner and play in the hot springs at the fancy resort Tabacon. The food wasn't memorable but the grounds were stunningly landscaped with little paved paths and footbridges over the little streams they built to channel the thermal spring waters from the volcano. Around the restaurant there was the waterfall you could sit under and they also had a pool system with a really big slide into the main pool. I almost lost my swimsuit the first time I tried it. Worth the money to swim there although I noticed on the way out that the low budget travelers were soaking in the streams that ran along the road for free. I expect that would feel just as good.

We didn't get to see much of the volcano. With all the delays on the road it was getting dark by the time we got to that part of the trip. But it erupted for us as were standing on the flanks and rained ash on our heads. As we sailed away under the stars on the now calm waters of the lake, we could see the lava flow down the mountain for a very long time.

For the next leg of the trip, we took a puddlejumper to Quepos. They cut the limits so close, they weigh you before they let you board. It was one of the few times I was scared on a small plane ride. It's a short flight, maybe 20 minutes but we were flying so low over the mountains in the middle, that the turbulence was significant. That was okay but the pilot was paying absolutely no attention. He was chatting away with the person in the co-pilot's seat, who was just another tourist, and gesturing and laughing. He wasn't even looking out the window. Suddenly the plane literally turned sideways and he finally grabbed the controls. I was glad to land at the Quepos airport, if you can call a quonset hut at the end of a dirt road with one landing strip an airport. Still it had a bar and after that flight, I needed a drink.

We stayed at the Parador just outside of Manuel Antonio. Really beautiful resort with their own resident population of wild monkeys and the room comes with the most astonishing breakfast buffet you've ever seen but not the place to stay if you want to be near the beach action. When they say they're remote, they mean it's a 10 minute drive down a dirt road off the main highway, to get there. Getting back and forth to Manuel Antonio is a project.

Actually getting there was relatively easy. The desk could conjure up a cab but you had to make an appointment. The first time we ventured out, we took a day trip to the reserve and its beaches. It was worth the price of admission. We saw lots of different "exotical" wildlife, including a galloping herd of monkeys and a tree sloth.

The beach is really long and has bays with little private stretches, so we ended up on the nude beach at the far end. It was a gay beach. I was the only woman there but my companion didn't care and just wanted to swim for a while at that point, so we stayed. After about an hour, our fellow beach goers were getting agitated and gesturing at us. Of course, our Spanish being weak, we didn't know why we had offended them. We had been minding our own business.

Finally one guy managed to convey that the tide was coming in and we would be cut off from the main beach in a matter of minutes. By the time we got back to the point the sea was indeed crashing against the rocks, where before there had a beach around it. Our benefactor was kind enough to lead us the best path up and over the cliff and right at the top of that outcropping you can see in the foreground of the photo, I found the most gorgeous shell. I offered it to our rescuer as a token of thanks. He seemed amused and admired it but smiled and shrugged as if to say de nada, and pressed it back into my hands.

We made our way back to the row of restaurant shacks that lined the beach near the main entrance and retired for mas cerveza and some beach food. It was well past dark by the time we thought to go back to the Parador. When we got to the road, there wasn't a cab anywhere. Now we were in a fix. It was way too far to try to walk but there wasn't even a car to be seen.

We stood by the side of the road and waited. In a half hour, three cars passed us and I tried to flag them down for a ride. No luck but word must have gotten around about the crazy gringos on the road because finally a guy in a jeep pulled up and I managed to communicate where we needed to go. I kept talking and pulling out more colones, and he finally agreed to do it.

When we were halfway down the "driveway" he slammed on the brakes. You have that moment where you think, oh great he's going to rob us, but no, he was all excited about something in the road. It was a young jaguar who froze in the headlights. We sat and watched it until it regained it's composure and scampered away. A rare sighting I'm told and it made it worth enduring the trouble of getting home but if I ever go back again, I think I'll stay in one of the cheap hotels within walking distance of the beach.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Repeating the propaganda

This atrocious op-ed in the Philly Inquirer is just crying out for LTEs. Jonathan Last should be fired for plagarism but I doubt John Walters will complain about such a good little helper in spreading his false propaganda. I wonder if they pulled a Armstrong Williams and paid him for it? You can email Last here and ask him.

Making peace, not war on drugs

As we've been saying right along, here's a study by the prestigious Research Triangle Institute as commissioned by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that proves treatment of drug abusers serves society much better than incarceration.
"The study shows that drug treatment programs for felony offenders provide great economic benefits to the criminal justice system and reduce recidivism rates among offenders, providing societal and economic benefits," said Gary Zarkin, Ph.D., principal investigator for the study. "Based on the results, policymakers should consider diversion programs for higher-risk drug offenders in addition to low-risk offenders usually eligible for such programs."
The study revealed a savings of millions of tax dollars and reduced recidivism rates for offenders diverted to treatment and they used only basic parameters.
"We did not include other potential societal benefits such as reduced public assistance, and avoided crime and victimization costs in our analysis," Zarkin said. "If we factor in those added outcomes, the economic benefit of diversion programs may be significantly larger, demonstrating an even greater value of such programs."
How can the prohibitionists argue with the logic in that?

[hat tip Doug McVay]

No place like Noho

The MassLive blogging site has finally got a Northampton page going. I'm glad to see my old acquaintance and former City Councillor Bill Dwight is photoblogging. I stole this graphic from this gallery.

If you look across the street, the first reddish building is my old office. We had most of the second floor. Sometimes I miss that place, but looking at that slush reminds me of aching knees and cold feet. Much as miss my old friends, it makes me glad I live in a more temperate climate now.