Thursday, November 30, 2006

The autumn leaves....

The down side of having an half acre of aging trees for a yard, besides the fact that major limbs crash to the ground in every rainstorm, is what to do with the leaves in the fall. I'm telling you folks, they were ankle deep out there and I was feeling guilty about it. In the last week every one of my neighbors, except for the mysterious actor next door who rarely comes out of the house, had cleared their yards. Well of course, every time the wind blows my leaves were moving onto their lovely clean lawns.

They're very cool neighbors, nobody ever complains but you know, I still feel bad about it so I went out yesterday and scratched away for an hour or so until my back gave out. I barely made a dent in the yard. I mean I started at the road and you couldn't see it from the house. I figured it would take me till about May to get it done at that rate and I woke up this morning barely able to move from the exertion.

So I'm sitting here in my pjs and bathrobe this morning, thinking about what to do and I find an ad in the local weekly for someone who does leaves. I'm just thinking about calling the guy when I get a knock on my door. This is the magic of this place. There's a big black guy standing on my stoop and he says, "Hey Lady, you need some help with these leaves?"

"How much?" I said.

We take a little tour of the yard and he tells me it will be $150 bucks. I laughed and told him to go home. No way I can afford that. He hedged. He asks me how much I got to spend? I tell him my max is fifty bucks and tell him he doesn't have to take the leaves away. I just need them blown into a couple of piles in the back and down to the road in the front. He and his buddy conferred and took the job. They didn't do a great job, but it was good enough and it took them over two hours so I think it was fair price. And let me tell you, did I have a great bonfire this afternoon.

It was marginally windy and I would have liked to put it off but the weather is going to turn by tomorrow so I chanced it and lit that windrow up. It was a long and wide pile of leaves running the whole length of the yard. For a minute I thought one of the trees was going to catch when the wind turned but I managed to burn it out without burning down the neighborhood.

Man, do I love me a good fire. I started it at one end and let it burn to the other and at one point it was seeping into the dry thatch on the lawn but it was so hot I couldn't get anywhere near it. I wasn't that worried though. While I was tending it, the fire marshall drove by, followed shortly thereafter by the local constable. That bitch was smoking heavy at the time. I expect they saw it from the main road.

I was surprised that neither one stopped to holler at me. Up north, they would have hollered. You need a farookin permit in New England to burn leaves. Even if you live in the country. Meanwhile, my neighbors were thrilled. Every single person who drove by made a big point of waving.

Fifty bucks is still a lot of money for me this time of year. All my car stuff comes due and I'm still paying off an unexpected medical bill for some tests that weren't covered by my exorbitant insurance. It's going to cut into my beer money this month but it was worth it to get the job off my mind and restore my status in the hood. My only regret is that I forgot to bring out my camera and get some shots of it. I think that was the probably the biggest fire I ever lit on my own.

Meth heads get a holiday

Well put on your party hats folks. Today, by presidential proclamation, we get to celebrate Meth Awareness Day. A day to reflect on a drug that has been around for about 40 years but didn't get to be an epidemic until the prohibitionists declared it to be a national emergency right about the time they were getting a lot of bad press about arresting terminally ill people in hospital beds for using medical marijuana.

You can read our drug czar, John Walters' self-serving screed here but if you're interested in actual facts about the drug, you might want to skip that and read D'Alliance's post instead.

Walters thinks he deserves some thanks for fighting this scourge and pats himself on the back for reducing the number of small labs in the US. So why don't you drop him a little note and thank him for taking the meth trade out of the hands of small non-violent operators and handing it over to the major Mexican organized crime cartels since we all know that trading a small problem for a bigger one is the surest way to keep our kids safe.

Bring back the "No More Tulias" bill

Thank God for email. I've been woefully remiss in reading my blogroll for the last couple of weeks, so I may have missed this post at Grits for Breakfast, if Scott hadn't dropped me a line. He reminds us that John Conyers co-sponsored a "No More Tulias" bill with Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee last year that died in the GOP run Congress. It would have required corroboration for undercover testimony (read that as busts based on paid snitches) in drug stings using federal grant money.

Now that the Democratic Party is back in control, the time would seem ripe to ask Conyers to bring it forward in the next session.

New focus on the WOsD

As I had hoped, poor old Kathryn Johnston didn't die completely in vain. Her untimely death, coupled with the tragic gunning down of the unarmed man in NYC, seems to have galvanized the MSM into examining drug war and law enforcement issues. Today MSNBC posts this Report: 7 million Americans in justice system.
WASHINGTON - A record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2,193,798 were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year.
And this is an important point that I'm glad to see they addressed.
Men still far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but the female population is growing faster. Over the past year, the population females in state or federal prison increased 2.6 percent while the number of male inmates rose 1.9 percent. By year's end, 7 percent of all inmates were women.

"Today's figures fail to capture incarceration's impact on the thousands of children left behind by mothers in prison," Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group supporting criminal justice reform, said in a statement Wednesday. "Misguided policies that create harsher sentences for nonviolent drug offenses are disproportionately responsible for the increasing rates of women in prisons and jails."

From 1995 until 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.
One can only hope that the public becomes equally galvanized and starts to demand real change in drug war policies and sentencing reform. We do not live in the most violent society on earth. There's no reason we should be funding and running the largest prison gulag in the world.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

No-knock warrants cause more harm than the crime

The response to the SWAT team raid just keeps growing. It's being addressed in every corner of Blogtopia. McQ weighs in with another excellent post. He opens with this. "The War on Drugs is a war on liberty and that simple truth is demonstrated almost daily on the streets and in homes around our nation." A lot of his commenters don't get it but he defended his point well. I may have misjudged that blog. He's more libertarian than I thought.

Also weighing in from Rightopia is Glenn Reynolds writing for Popular Mechanics with strong post against paramilitary tactics. Interestingly, he echoes the points I've been making about the nexus between civil forfeiture and the growing prevalence of SWAT teams. As often as he pisses me off, he's always had good creds on drug policy reform and it's good to see him take up the issue. His star may be falling a bit in the blogosphere, but he's still an enormously influential voice and he'll reach a lot of conservative ears. Great closing line on this piece. "Our homes are supposed to be our castles. The police shouldn't treat them like enemy camps."

Blogging from the left, Glenn Greenwald, in a mixed post -- scroll past the Webb stuff -- examines why ending the WOsD is such a tough sell. As he rightly notes, "...what does seem clear is that the greatest impediment, by far, to being able even to discuss the issue of drug prohibition is the moralistic opposition to drug usage coming from the 'religious conservatives' on whom the Republican Party depends." I also see arguing drug use on moral grounds as the biggest obstacle to sensible debate but frankly I don't think it's limited to the GOP or conservatives in general. I've heard similar arguments from non-consumers on all sides of the fence.

Most heartening though, to a jaded reformer like myself, is that the Christian Science Monitor picked up the story and takes the SWAT team and no-knock warrants to task. They offer up this interesting factoid. "The number of no-knock raids has increased from 3,000 in 1981 to more than 50,000 last year." They also have a photo of the victim's home in Atlanta.

I think it's a really good sign that people outside the reform community are finally recognizing that the excesses of the WOsD threaten the civil liberties of everyone. When SWAT teams become the customary avenue for the service of warrants, rather than the rare occurrence it formerly was, it's a sure sign that our police are becoming way too militarized. Today they break down doors over a few grams of marijuana. What's next -- unpaid parking tickets?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Best. Obit. Ever.

I'm of an age where I started reading the obits regularly. All too often I find someone I know. This guy I know of, but never met, but his obit is the ultimate statement of a Hilltown hillbilly. Since my old hometown paper is so greedy they charge to read it online, I reproduce here in full for your amusement.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - With trumpets blaring, Zeus, god of gods, called Daniel Reed Porter III to His Heavenly Pantheon on Nov. 21, 2006.

He (Porter, not Zeus) was the second White child born in the new maternity ward of Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton on his father's birthday July 2, 1930. His mother Eleanor (Parsons) needed all the help she could get.

Porter was reared on a small farm with his siblings in Worthington. Sickly as a child, his parents often contemplated drowning him in Watt's Brook that flowed (trickled in summer) behind the house into which (the brook, not the house) they deposited other trash, sewage and cow manure.

After being partially educated in local schools, Porter matriculated in the class of 1952 at UMass, formerly Mass Aggie. Here he failed to distinguish himself in any meaningful way, and managed to alienate a number of his classmates and professors. Upon graduation without honors, Porter was drafted into the Army and served in Korea before and after the armistice. There he learned more than at college - never volunteer, be cowardly to survive, don't circulate petitions and keep away from indigenous females.

Returning home ill-prepared for an occupation, he was strangely accepted by the University of Michigan Graduate School where he tried to prepare for an acceptable if not respectable occupation.

A 35-year career as a museum and historical agency administrator and museum director followed. He moved from state to state five times to keep ahead of his reputation. He completed his career ignominiously in Cooperstown in 1992. On his demise, he was a member of no organization, club or charity.

Porter was not survived by his parents and sister, Janice Leroux. But surviving him are his relict, Joan (Dornfeld); a daughter, Leslie, her husband, Edward Easton III, and their daughters, Erika, Caitlin, and Allison, of Coudersport (God's Country), Pa.; his son, Andrew, and his wife, Amy (Pens), and their heir, Reed; a brother, Edward, and his wife, Shirley (Smith), on Watt's Brook; a brother-in-law, Al Leroux, and his Buick sedan of Northampton; and numbers of nieces and nephews.

There will be no final rites or any mumbo-jumbo. He will not lie in state at the The Farmers' Museum. His cremated remains will be scattered on Watt's Brook. Memorial gifts will not be accepted and cards are a waste of money.
In case you're wondering, he wrote it himself before he died. Good for his family for publishing it intact.

Will Atlanta granny's death kill the no-knock warrant?

This story has turned into a major shitstorm. In the latest news out of Atlanta on the botched SWAT team raid, the confidential informant says he was called after the fact by the narcotics squad and told to lie in order to cover their ass. Further, it appears that the no-knock warrant may have been forged. It at least seems apparent that even if it was lawfully obtained, it was done so with false information. In any event, as the beleaguered Chief Pennington notes, somebody is lying. To Pennington's credit, the FBI has now been called in to investigate the matter.

The story is being picked up across the spectrum in Blogtopia. I thought conservative blogger Q and O had the best take on that side of the fence but as always, our man Radley has the best analysis. One really important point he makes is that even "by conservative estimates, there are about 110 of these types of raids per day in America. The vast majority are for drug crimes." Think about that for a minute. A SWAT team serves a warrant over a 100 times a day. If there were really that many dangerous criminals that justified using a SWAT team, none of us would be able to leave the house unarmed.

Of course, there's no upside for the deceased Ms. Johnston and her family, but for the rest of us, perhaps the good that will come of this tragedy is that the overuse of SWAT teams and no-knock warrants will finally get some overdue scrutiny and if we're lucky, the practice will be banned for non-violent crimes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I've been battling a blinding sinus headache all day so I'm off to dreamland but I'm looking at a week off. I'll be back.

Atlanta SWAT raid update

Follow up on the poor dead granny story. Yes, they did found an amount of marijuana so small that the Chief wouldn't even say how much they found. For this a 93 year old woman is dead? The community, as you can imagine, is up in arms about this tragedy.
"Something is wrong; well we have heard people say it appears folks followed the policy," said Michael Langford, United Youth Adult Conference. "I don’t know that, the investigation will reveal that, but we know something is wrong when a 92-year-old woman loses her life as a result of this operation."

According to the Atlanta Police Department, a suspected narcotic was found inside Johnston's home.

"They did find drugs in the house and it was not a large amount. It was marijuana," said Chief Pennington.

Chief Pennington said the case was built on a drug buy by a confidential informant, who claimed he purchased drugs inside Johnston's home.
Only one conclusion can be drawn from the large number of botched service of warrants. These SWAT team raids conducted in the dark of night have got to stop. Even if the people are guilty, these are not major kingpins they're arresting. They're penny ante dealers at worst. When the enforcement of the law causes more harm than the breaking of it, it's time to change the laws.

If you need more convincing, the UK Times has a great piece on how to get tough on drugs effectively -- license them. The statistics speak for themselves.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

True confessions - Part 2

I'm working through tomorrow so I'm taking the lazy way out and telling you what I have in common with Yabu.

I'm (mostly) happy
I live in North Carolina, (sort of) equidistant from the Great Smoky Mountains and the Right Coast
I like any kind of pepper
I have great friends
I'm a life long learner
I like dogs
I believe in Open Source
I do not wear jewelry
I can trash a kitchen
I believe in the right to bear arms.
Iceland is cool
I like golf more than football
I like to travel
I'm a news junky
I have a great job
I support Israel
Sailboat or Powerboat? Sailboat
Beach or Mountains? Tie
OJ is guilty
I like Grits
I like Dinosaurs
I think military jet fighters are cool
I wish I knew more about astronomy
I believe Women have intuitions that Men do not
I wear reading glasses - just damn
I believe in a starched white shirt and a silk tie - when necessary
I like love storms of any kind
I like to grow vegetables
I support the Military
I like to sit on the porch without no shoes
I like the blogosphere Blogtopia
I like to wear sandals - with or without socks
I believe in the Maker
I believe everyone should have an opinion
I've been hot air ballooning
Do you use profanity? Hell yes!
Naval Officer or Pirate? Pirate
Can I read more than one book at a time? Yes
GUI or Command Line? Command Line [I don't know what that means]
And I've done a bunch of more shit that nobody would believe.

Bonus points: A few more things just about me.

I love Manhattan. My favorite landmark is the Chrysler Building. My favorite tourist attraction is the Staten Island Ferry.

I've been to Coney Island. I love the Roller Coaster, the big star Ferris Wheel, the Freak Show and Nathan's Hot Dogs.

I've gone to the top of the Empire State Building at 10:00 at night.

I've been assaulted at gunpoint twice in my life.

I've had the same wallet since 1974.

I'm superstitious.

I literally bought the tshirt off Abbie Hoffman's back for eight bucks. He told me Mick Jagger had lousy pot and tried to get me to go back to his hotel room. I didn't go.

Jimmy Carter kissed my baby when he was campaigning for President. Our picture ran on the wires all over the world. I still have a copy.

I worked with DNC spindoctors to get John Olver elected the first time.

I talked to Mike Dukasis regularly when he was governor of Massachusetts.

I've talked to the Dalai Lama on the telephone.

SWAT teams run amok

Bejus. Yet another botched SWAT team raid. "Good" warrant, wrong address and the usual strong arm tactics -- breaking down doors, throwing smoke bombs, surrounding an innocent elderly citizen with drawn guns and demanding information from her. At least this time the 68 year old grandmother didn't get killed. But she's been suffering from post traumatic shock since the raid and as she says,
"I've never seen such nasty people in all my life," she said. "You don't talk to an old lady like that. At least show some respect."
I think that's what's changed with the focus on SWAT team raids. A uniformed officer knocks on the door and shows respect. A SWAT team breaks down the door and shows none. And when an innocent citizen suffers that kind of abuse, it doesn't just break a piece of wood, it breaks the trust Americans once had in their law enforcement officers to protect and serve and they also lose their respect for the law.

It's all about the breakdown of order. Without respect for the law, you have anarchy and that is how the war on some drugs destroys the fabric of civilized society.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Used car comes with unexpected option

Why doesn't this ever happen to me?
EUNICE, N.M. (AP) - A Eunice resident received more than he expected after purchasing a used car recently. There was $28,000 worth of marijuana stored under the back seat. The owner discovered the drugs and contacted police, who recovered 20 bricks - 22 pounds - of marijuana.
The local drug task force is looking into it and praised the new owner of the car for coming forward. You have to wonder how anyone forgets there's a shitload of pot under the back seat of the car they're selling in the first place {insert pothead joke here} but I wouldn't have called the cops. I would just buried it -- or something -- before I got someone arrested for pot.

What would you have done?

Another innocent life lost to botched SWAT drug raid

This one has big news for a few days now but after some confusing initial coverage, the details are beginning to emerge. The bottom line on this story is a 93 year old grandmother is dead because of a botched drug raid. The woman, living in a high crime section of Atlanta, lived in fear of being assaulted in her home -- not an uncommon occurrence even in the "better" sections of town. According to neighbors, she rarely left her house and kept her doors locked at all times and went to bed early. The SWAT team broke down her door after dark and startled her out of sleep. She had a gun for protection and fired on the officers, not realizing they were cops. They returned fire. She's dead and three officers are wounded.

As Talk Left points out, the tragedy is partly a result of a recent court ruling that essentially eliminated the time requirement between when the cops knock on the door and when they announce they are cops. You can expect to see more of these botched raids, not less as result of that ruling. That this particular raid was the result of sloppy police work is apparent. Even the Instapundit weighs in on the incompetence in this case and notes a simple google search would bring up a link to a photo of the house showing a wheelchair ramp leading to the front door. Not your typical crack house location.

But for the full story and the best analysis, Radley Balko is the go-to guy. Radley has been following these cases for years now and has assembled a White Paper along with an interactive map showing just how prevalent these murderous raids have become.

The latest information indicates a drug buy did take place at the woman's home on the same afternoon as the raid -- which happened at about 7pm. As Radley notes, "Which means that at most just a few hours transpired between the drug buy and the bust. How much investigation do you think the police did in that three hours to determine if the seller actually lived in the house where the buy took place, or if there might be other, innocent people inside?"

Judging from personal experience, my guess is that they didn't do any. I lived in Atlanta about ten years ago. I was assaulted at gunpoint at 10:00pm in a parking lot in the very center of Little Five Points. A man jumped out from behind a dumpster, grabbed me in a headlock, held a gun to my head -- right behind my left ear -- and said, "You know you're a fucking bitch?" It's a long story for another post but I obviously got away and walked into the Star Bar, where I was going to see my friend's band play. I collapsed into their arms and said, "Give me a double whiskey and call the cops." The police showed up an hour and half later and weren't at all interested in my account. They assumed it was a robbery attempt even though the guy never asked for money and several women had been raped in the neighborhood over the preceding weeks. No investigation was ever conducted.

That's not to say I'm glad, as has been expressed in many comment threads, that the cops got shot. I appreciate the police have a tough job and I don't wish ill on anyone. But with that being said, I think we can trace the root cause of this escalating problem on the forfeiture laws. By their design, they encourage bad police work. Time was that the cops wouldn't bother with sending SWAT teams to serve warrants for penny ante drug dealers but now every podunk town in America has all this cool SWAT team gear and of course they are going to want to use it. Boys and their toys and all that.

The reason they have all this gear, and the big cities make enough on forfeiture to buy farookin tanks and other heavy military equipment, is because they get to keep the money and property they seize in drug busts but they can only use it to purchase equipment, not to fund more officers on the street. And as an added bonus, they don't even have to prove a crime has been commited. They can seize on mere suspicion of a crime and then it's up to the property to prove itself innocent. Often the owners don't pursue the return of their goods because the cost of the legal fees outweighs the value of the property itself. But it adds up and thus do the police have an undue incentive to pursue petty busts, that pre-forfeiture simply wouldn't have been worth their time. Certainly not worth sending in a team of officers in black hoods and flack jackets instead of sending a couple of uniforms over on a Sunday afternoon to take the perps into custody.

And the police face no reprecussions for botching these raids. Again, see Radley. Just start at the top and keep scrolling. He puts it into good context here.
When police make mistakes, however, they're nearly always forgiven. Because we're supposed to understand how an officer in such a volatile situation might misjudge an everyday object for a gun, or shoot a completely innocent, unarmed man -- all perfectly understandable, given the volatile, confrontational circumstances surrounding SWAT raids. Such deaths -- while tragic -- are mere collateral damage. We have to keep fighting the war on drugs. And we have to protect our police officers by allowing them to break down doors while people are sleeping. The deaths of a few innocent people are the price we pay for the privilege of having the government tell us what we are and aren't allowed to put into our bodies.
Hell, some of these guys get commendations after the fact, for killing innocent people, while innocent people go to jail for protecting themselves against unknown armed intruders.

There's no reason this raid needed to be conducted in that manner, particularly on the say-so of a confidential informant. If the cops had used some common sense instead of a SWAT team, this woman would have likely died peacefully of old age and three cops wouldn't have been shot. If drugs were legalized this wouldn't have happened at all. So if you want to end the war on some drugs -- I'd urge any potential reformers to harass your Congresscreatures until they rescind forfeiture laws or at the very least have the seized property go to anyone except the police who are conducting the raids. I'm willing to bet money that if we took the financial incentive out of petty busts, they wouldn't happen anymore.

Leave the weed at home

This kid has some serious acting out issues. A 19 year old with a long history of petty crimes is on trial for stealing bicycles. His mother is his defense attorney. He stands up at the defense table at the end of the trial and a bag of marijuana falls out of his pocket. Guess they don't search people going into court houses there. Meanwhile, his mother pleads insanity.
"I'm going to say it in a very crass way, and I hope he forgives me," she said.

"He is brain-damaged, your honor. I don't mean he's just a defendant who does dumb stuff. This is a boy with an IQ in triple digits. His brain is glued together with Silly Putty. He can't think his way out of a paper bag, but he can do physics."
She presuambly is asking for treatment rather than jail time. Maybe he's really just a troubled kid with brain damage, but it sounds to me like he probably just needs more attention from her outside of the courtroom.

Friday, November 24, 2006

If you knew Susie....

I swear I'm still in such a trypto coma from yesterday's turkey dinner that I'm drinking coffee at this late hour to try to kick my brain in gear. So while I'm waiting for the caffeine to take effect, here's an item about my friend Susan Angeletti. Susan is one of the best female singer songwriters I've ever heard. Think Janis Joplin with Jagger's confidence , Tina Turner's energy and Aretha's soul. Why she isn't a bigger star is mystery to me, but the music industry's loss is the Happy Valley's gain. If you're reading this within striking distance of Western MA, she's having a benefit show for Toys for Tots on December 9th at the Bluebonnet Diner. If you've never heard her play, this is a good cause and great opportunity to check out Susie and her ever changing, but always stellar, back up band.

And while I'm on the subject of unappreciated singer songwriters, I'm adding my pals John Sheldon and Kevin Keady to my musicmaker category on the blogroll. All their websites are way underdeveloped - John doesn't even mention his beginnings as wunderkid guitarist for Van Morrison, and Kevin doesn't even have a picture of his gorgeous self, but their music rocks the house. With the gift season upon us, I'd recommend their CDs for anyone who appreciates great but "undiscovered" musicians.

World's biggest joint a bust

Cancel that call to the Guniess Book of Records. A plan to roll and smoke the world's largest joint was cancelled at short notice in Amsterdam when the organizers realized they could be breaking the law.. The group thought they could skirt the 5 gram limit for personal use by having 100 people pool their stash to roll a kilo's worth of marijuana into one big joint. (That's 2.2 lbs for the metrically challenged) However, on reading the fine print of the law they decided they might get arrested and cancelled the attempt. The Dutch police confirm they would have taken an interest in the project.

I'm kind of sorry they couldn't go through with it. I would have liked to see the video on that one. And you have to wonder where they would have found a rolling paper big enough for the task much less roll it into a smokeable joint.

[hat tip to Irma] [graphic gratitude]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving thanks

It's a funny holiday this year. I had to work really early this morning and the first thing I'm thankful for today is the hour long nap I just got and that the sun came out just when I woke up after two days of solid dreary rain. Restoring your energy is wonderful thing. I'm thankful for the fabulous meal I'll be having in a couple of hours, but that's the little stuff. The big stuff is too long to list it all.

I'm thankful for a wonderful and loving family. I'm thankful that I lived to see my daughter grow up into a confident and competent woman who is doing great work to benefit society. I'm thankful that I have a son-in-law who is a good husband to her and a good friend to me. I'm thankful for old friendships that can't be diminished by distance and for new friends that have learned to appreciate my eccentric nature.

And I'm thankful for blogging, for giving me a forum to express the thoughts that are always roiling in my head and for bringing you -- my cherished readers -- into my world. Some of you I know and love on the earthly plane and some I only know in cyberspace but I consider you all dear friends. Thanks for sticking with me. Without you, my world would be a lonely place.

I hope every one of you found yourself in a warm place with good company and fine food on this Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

RIP - Hobo King

"Steam Train" Maury Graham has left this mortal coil and jumped that big boxcar to heaven. I'll leave his obituary to his granddaughter since I know nothing about the man. I didn't even know there were any hobos left in America, much less hobo royalty, but I mourn his passing nonetheless.

I've never really met one but I've always loved hobos.A lot of people think hobos are just bums but that's just not true. Hobos are the ultimate travelers and they work for what they get. A real hobo is a man of the world, living life on his own terms, but not a beggar or a thief.

I remember reading stories about them as a kid and thinking that sounded like a pretty good career choice. Right up there with gypsy, stewardess or bareback rider in the circus. As the grand duke of hobos put it, "it's a lifestyle/culture so sweet, so addictive, so seductive, so intoxicating, that those of us who retire after 20, 30, even 40 years of are never really free of it. Because Lady Freedom has gotten too far in our blood to gotten rid of her completely."

Sure, jumping freight trains and sleeping in hobo jungles, cooking over a makeshift campfire and drinking out of tin can cups ain't exactly the life of Riley, but you have to admire folks that give up security for freedom and the profession traces its roots all the way back to the civil war. Even today, there's a real community of hobos that consider themselves a large itinerant family. They have a code of honor and a secret language of signs and symbols. They're artists and craftsmen turning out great works of art using whatever medium is free and selling them for a pittance, though some of the better pieces are then resold by art dealers for thousands of dollars.

Of course, today's hobo is far different from his predecessors. They're as likely to communicate with cell phones as with secret codes in the rail yards and they're organized. They have websites and conventions and even a fledgling museum, yet they're still largely an invisible society. But there's enough of them left that "when one Hobo dies, though the rest of the U.S. could care less, the entire Hobo family feels the pain nation-wide."

Well, I can't say I'll miss him exactly, but today I share the hobo's sorrow for loss of a true adventurer. Rest in peace Steam Train Maury -- King of the Hoboes.

A little help for a friend

Judging from my personal experience, autism is on the rise in America. I think the evidence is strong that it's related to the vaccine routinely administered to babies but we'll never know for sure if Congress doesn't fund the research to identify the source and find ways to remedy this condition. The lovely bartender Maeve has an autistic son and posts a link to a action alert. The bill is being held up in committee and our Congresscreatures need to hear from us to move it onto the floor. Please take 30 seconds to send the insta-letter to yours. This is an important issue to thousands of parents.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A redneck joke

"Hello, is this the Sheriff's Office?"

"Yes. What can I do for you?"

"I'm calling to report 'bout my neighbor Virgil Smith....He's hidin' marijuana inside his firewood! Don't quite know how he gets it inside them logs, but he's hidin' it there."

"Thank you very much for the call, sir."

The next day, the Sheriff's Deputies descend on Virgil's house. They search the shed where the firewood is kept. Using axes, they bust open every piece of wood, but find no marijuana. They sneer at Virgil and leave.

Shortly, the phone rings at Virgil's house.

"Hey, Virgil! This here's Floyd....Did the Sheriff come?"


"Did they chop your firewood?"


"Happy Birthday, buddy!"

[hat tip to Irma]

A call to change the course in the WOsD

Long time readers know that about almost three years ago I started blogging politics for an MSM newspaper. As a result, my drug war blogging here suffered but I figured I would do more good bringing the message to the non-consumers in Detroit and I guess I've done a pretty good job of that, enough so that my critics accuse me of blogging while bonging when they can't refute my points.

Still, I've sometimes second guessed my choice so I love when this happens. Nolan Finley, who is a fairly conservative guy and almost certainly a non-consumer, posts an eloquent column calling for a reassessment of the war on some drugs. Do me a favor a click over to read the piece. I'd like the editors to see it generates interest. Meanwhile here's a couple of choice quotes.
Yet while it only took three years for the American people to lose patience with the Iraq War, the drug war has been dragging on virtually unchallenged for three decades.

Given the cost, it's baffling that taxpayers haven't demanded more accountability. State and federal drug fighting efforts cost roughly $1 billion a week.

Here's the return on that money: Zero. Despite keeping more than 300,000 people locked up for drug offenses, narcotics use has held steady for 20 years.
And this is my favorite graf.
The drug war has ruined America's cities. Gangs terrorize neighborhoods and catch innocent residents in their crossfire. Up to half of the homicides in urban communities can be traced to drug trafficking. Police forces have turned into paramilitary units that are often as menacing as the hoodlums.
I think his numbers are little off but I'm not going to quibble about it and there's lots more good stuff. Check it out.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hampshire Piano Company - End of an era

This news makes me really sad. My buddies from Noho, Richard and Craig own a piano company. They mostly refurbish old pianos and they've had their shop at the old Pro-Brush building for years and years. My old hometown newspaper is so cheap, I can' t even link to the story cause the link rots in 30 minutes and I can't copy the photos but you can see them here.

The pictures don't do the shop justice. The place was huge -- cavernous really -- and filled with pianos in every stage of reconstruction. It also had the most amazing basement. The building was over a hundred years old and you could lost in the catacombs down there. I almost did once during one of their legendary parties.

I went to so many really great parties there. Every musician in town was a friend of these guys and they would all jam, all night long. I saw so many once in a lifetime combinations of players. Jazz cats playing with blues guys, playing with thrashers, playing with singer songwriters. It was always A-list music but they would give any newcomer who dared to try, a chance to sit in.

The guest list was always eclectic. The early evening could bring staid neighbors and even parents of the musicians, but once the civilians left, the real freaks arrived and the serious partying started. It was always a pot luck thing -- emphasis on the pot -- and whatever else was happening in the basement - stayed in the basement. The kegs never ran out, the tables were loaded with booze and there was food. Ah the food. People cooked for these things. Huge vats of food appeared from nowhere and never ran out until the wee hours of the morning which is probably why no one, to my knowledge, was ever bagged for a DUI after leaving those parties.

Well it's all over now folks. My pals got kicked out of the complex, just another victim of capitalism. They were one of the first to occupy that building and were largely responsible for turning it into the artist's colony it became. And I mean colony in the sense it was as big as small town. The building was immense and intricate. Without signs you could get lost on any floor. Many of the first tenants were artists who attended one of those parties. It built from there over the years.

They sold the building to a crass and heartless speculator and Hampshire Piano had some of the prime space in the complex so they kicked them out. They found another space in the next town but it won't be the same. They even changed their name. Sometimes I hate change.

Meanwhile, these guys had to move 84 pianos and their phone system was screwed up for weeks. What a drag. I should send them some flowers. And if you're reading this in New England and need piano repair, or are looking for a really good used piano, give them a call. (413) 532-1123

Sick day

Sorry I never showed up yesterday. I think I'm coming down with something. I was so beat after a short work day that I was in bed by 9:00 last night but I woke up at 3:00am with a horrible sore throat. I'm working today as well but I have tomorrow off so if I don't feel worse, I'll post something more interesting later.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

True Confessions

I just can't shake this funk so I'm just going to post this work in progress for my profile. It's rather ridiculous that I've been blogging for almost four years now and never put up a bio or finished my templates. Anyway, here's a few things you might not know about me.

I've been so rich that I had to safety pin my pockets to keep the cash from falling out and I've been so poor that I had to scrape together loose change from under the sofa cushions for a slice of pizza or I wouldn't eat that day.

I've flown hot air balloons, jumped out of a Cessna 232, a Twin Otter and frogwalked off the tailgate of a Casa. Between the Carribean, Central America and Western Europe, I've travelled to 11 countries. I've been to Mexico three times. I've slept in palaces and slept on the street. Loved em both. There's still a lot I want to see.

I've jumped off a really high cliff into a quarry. I've jumped off the roof of a restaurant into a cenote. I parasailed once. I've never been bungee jumping and I don't want to.

I'm afraid to scuba dive but I love snorkeling. I've snorkeled the big reef in Belize at night.

I've blacked out twice from drinking two much alcohol. I have two scars from falling down after drinking, once from too much tequila and the other time from Red Hot Shots. I don't do shots anymore.

I've fallen flat on my face when I was stone cold sober. Have a scar from that too. I scar really easily.

I'm the oldest of three siblings. I'm the black sheep of the family.

I've owned at least 27 cars and lived in more than 20 different places.

I don't care about winning at games or arguments. In fact I'd rather lose. You learn more by losing.

I suck at relationships. I turn away good men and get involved with guys who make me crazy. Otherwise I pine for men who don't have any interest in me whatsoever. I never really got over the greatest love of my life.

Ten things I want to do before I die. Ride in the Goodyear blimp. Take a ride on a sailplane. Fly in a helicopter. Sail out of the sight of land on the sea. Play baccarat in Monte Carlo. Travel to the South Pacific and Thailand. Walk the coastline of Great Britain. Vacation on a Greek Island. Go to a Jawja blog meetup. Win the Souweine family basketball pool.

To be continued....

You say that you are a shooting star....

For all you stargazers out there, The Leonid meteor showers are tonight. It's only going to visible in parts of Europe, Africa and the East Coast of the US and they're predicting a less than spectacular display but if you're awake around midnight it's always worth a trip outside to check it out.

The last really good shower I saw was a few years ago and it was surely worth freezing my ass off to see.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Judge pitches for reduced sentencing on crack

This is sort of good news.
A federal judge who served as a top drug policy adviser to the first President Bush and advocated harsher penalties for crack cocaine crimes said Tuesday the policy had gone too far and was undermining faith in the judicial system.
The disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine, instituted during the mania over the "crack epidemic" decades ago, is ridiculous. It's the same drug in two different forms yet trafficking in 5 grams of cocaine carries a mandatory five-year prison sentence, but it takes 500 grams of cocaine powder to warrant the same sentence.

The Sentencing Commission had recommended reducing the penalities on crack several times and been ignored by more than one administration who still cling to the myth that crack is a more dangerous drug. They're both dangerous when abused but the only real difference is that poor people use crack and middle class users snort powder.

Short of legalizing both of them, which would do a hell of lot more towards solving the problems of addiciton, the sentencing should at the least be equalized.

[hat tip Preston Peet]

Rolling the dice

As I've been saying for years, if you let the government diminish the civil rights of drug consumers because you don't take drugs, the day would come when they would be coming after your vice next. And so it came to pass that a new war was declared by the legislative nannies, a war on internet gambling. It's funny how much the gamblers sound like drug policy reformers.
"It makes no sense whatsoever," Lanni told gambling industry officials attending the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. "Prohibition didn't work, this isn't going to work."

Later, Lanni said he hoped Congress would commission a study into the effect of online gambling.

"We're looking even in the lame-duck session to reintroduce this bill with some of our compatriots in the House and Senate to study (Internet) gaming," said Lanni, who directs the world's second-largest casino company.

"We think it can be taxed, we think it can be regulated, we think it can be licensed," Lanni said. "With the new leadership, with the Democrats winning the House and the Senate, we think we're going to have a much better opportunity to do that."
I would suggest Mr. Lanni not hold his breath waiting for the Dems to save him. If their record on drug policy reform is any indication, once the government outlaws a private, non-infringing behavior, they won't easily re-legalize it - especially if they figure out a way to get money and score political points for enforcing the ban.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Traffic jam

I would have loved to embed the video on this one but it starts up as soon you open the page and I don't want to get any of you work surfers into trouble, so do the click and check out the worlds' most effective speed trap. Not quite safe for work.

[hat tip Jules Siegel]

RIP Milton Friedman

World renowned economist Milton Friedman, credited widely with inventing and promoting free market capitalism died today at the ripe old age of 94. His economic theories were sound and would have worked better if not for the greed of ordinary men who come into extraordinary power, but I mourn him today as one of the greatest friends the drug policy reform movement ever had.

Although it went unnoted in almost all of the obviously pre-prepared obits that hit the internets moments after he passed away, Friedman felt strongly that all drugs should be legalized and was at the forefront of economists who saw the sense in ending the senseless WOsD and was willing to speak out publicly for it.

May he rest in peace. We'll miss him.

The politics of pot

I've been battling inertia, a bad back and severe anxiety in the last couple of days but the battle for reform goes on with or without me. This reminder from Jack Cole of LEAP offers a constructive and simple way to help the drug policy reform movement. Mega NGO Move-On is accepting suggestions for issues of importance to address in the next year or two. Drop them a note here and tell them ending the war on some drugs would go a long way towards curing what ails us as a society.

Now I'm not a big fan of Move-On any more myself. I loved the whole netroots thing in the beginning but as with most organizations, once they reached a certain level of influence, it appeared to me they became too interested in maintaining their own power and less interested in advancing common efforts with other lesser known groups. Nonetheless, one can't ignore their reach and their efficacy in educating the public. It would be a very good thing if they took on policy reform, so fill out the form right now.

And while we're on politics, I just found out Steve Kubby is a declared candidate for the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party. Regular readers and reformers will recognize Kubby as a long time activist for medical marijuana and a former drug war refugee who spent many years in self-exile in Canada before he finally turned himself in here in the US to serve a prison sentence on a trumped up drug charge.

According to party insider Thomas Knapp, the nomination race is Kubby's to lose. That may be true, but I have to wonder if his health issues wouldn't become a liability in the general election. People tend to be leery of electing candidates who could drop dead of fatal diseases at any time. Still we wish him luck in the race.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Missing my muse

I'm back on the work rotation and I'm just out of inspiration today. It's a slow news cycle so I just wasted an hour reading ridiculous news items that I don't feel like blogging about. I can tell you that they invented a new tshirt that translates air guitar playing into actual music you can hear on your computer.

NASA lost contact with the Mars probe and some guy India says red rain that fell there is really alien life forms being seeded on earth. Coincidence?

There were a whole bunch of law enforcement agents being busted for stealing from drug dealers and reselling drugs on the streets themselves.

A significant amount of heroin has been seized this week. The biggest haul was 32 kilos in New Milford, CT.

And some 197 drug addicted inmates in the UK were awarded damages by a court for the prison's failure to provide them drugs when they were incarcerated. Each inmate will walk away with about $6,000.

I'll be back later if I manage to stay awake. Maybe I'll be more inspired after a couple of beers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Oh I Wish I Were An Oscar Mayer Wiener…

This is why I love the internets. I was offered 150 Kool Aid points yesterday, so I checked out the website to see what 150 points would get me. I wasn't much interested in the prizes but I was pretty impressed with the psychedelic array of fun and games for tiny people and decided to see what the other kidcentric sites had to offer in the way of product indoctrination.

The Juicy Juice site failed to impress and the Jello kid page was just bizarre, but it was at the Jello site that I found The WIENERMOBILIA™ Store and what a find just in time for the gift giving season.
If you have ever seen the WIENERMOBILE® Vehicle, or heard the timeless Wiener Jingle, then you know how exciting it is to see the 27ft long hot dog cruising through your town. Now you can bring home the excitement of the WIENERMOBILE. These pieces of Americana will bring smiles to every kid and kid at heart!
Now I know that nothing excites me more than the prospect of a 27ft long hot dog cruising down my street, but those of us who are off the beaten path must make do with life-like replicas instead. So Ladies and Gentleman, I give you.......

To the untrained eye, it may look like any ordinary, run-of-the-mill, hot dog-shaped whistle. But, it's not just any's the WIENERWHISTLE™ Toy! The WIENERWHISTLE™ is a full-blown musical instrument that plays a special tune in four notes. The WIENERWHISTLE™ has four holes, that's about twice as many as most whistles! There's one to blow into, one at the side, one at the far end, and one on the top. By covering some of the holes in a special way, you can play a bunch of different sounds like the Wiener Jingle©! (Restricted to children 3 and up.)
Forget the kazoos. Doesn't covering some of the holes of a full blown instrument in a special way sound more interesting than just humming? Sure sounds like a whole lot more fun than the empty box I used to play with as a kid. I think I'll order mine today.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sembler's penile pump missing

If there was a top ten list of the most evil prohibition profiteers in the history of drug war madness, the Semblers and their hideous concentration camp for teenagers, Straight, Inc., would be number one. The vile tactics they used against these kids should have been prosecuted under criminal statutes, but being well connected, they were instead licensed to scam well meaning parents out of their money, in return for torturing their children.

One of them decided to get even.
The fight goes back more than 20 years, to a massive warehouse in Pinellas Park with blue plastic chairs and too many peanut butter sandwiches.

There, at a drug treatment center called Straight, Inc., 17-year-old Richard Bradbury landed in a world that he says was part Lord of the Flies, part Abu Ghraib prison.

Sembler and his wife, Betty, helped found Straight after they found out one of their sons was smoking pot, according to news reports.

In a book published this year, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids, journalist Maia Szalavitz contends that dehumanizing practices at prisons and mental hospitals have been repackaged as therapy and sold to parents desperate to control their children. The first two chapters feature Straight, and Richard Bradbury.

Bradbury says a fireman molested him when he was 11, abuse that continued for three years with a high school principal and other men the fireman brought around. He dropped out of school but says he was not hooked on drugs when his adoptive parents brought him to Straight.

Other teens further along in the program forced him to sit up in a plastic chair for 10 to 12 hours a day, he says. If he leaned back, he was thrown to the floor and others sat on his arms, legs and chest. Forbidden to use the bathroom, he would soil his clothes. He says he was beaten.

He graduated, joined the staff and inflicted beatings on other teens. He left Straight in 1985, after he said he learned other counselors were sexually abusing teens and tried to report it, only to be told to shut up or be returned to the program as a client.
Read the rest at the link if you want details about the penile pump that finally triggered the law suit and don't judge Bradbury too harshly. Many of the Semblers' victims have never recovered from the experience, some ironically became addicts turning to drugs in order to forget and all suffer painful memories to the present day. One can only hope Mr. Bradbury pulls himself together enough to bring this to trial and expose these two for the vicious predators they are.

My house, is teeney, tiny, little pink house....

I've been in kind of funk since I got home. A lot of weird energy in the hood. The old guy across the street died shortly before I returned and there's been an endless stream of people over there ever since, mostly drinking and carrying on. I thought the Jewish custom of sitting shiva was pretty extravagant but they got nothing on these rednecks. I haven't gone over myself, but I'm sorry to see the old guy go. I didn't really get to know him but he sat on the porch a lot and we often exchanged pleasantries when I went to get the mail.

On a brighter note, "my" deer seems to have found a companion. I saw her last night and again this afternoon with a new friend. That cheers me up some. She looked so lonely for few days there.

Meanwhile, I've got a couple to things to post but I have to run out for few minutes so here's a link I thought was interesting. I'm thinking this would be perfect for an old maid like me.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

For all those who have served in the past and those currently on the front lines, thanks and Happy Veterans Day.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Arrgh, get the license plate of that truck....

Traveling did me a world of good but I feel like I got hit by a tractor trailer today. It may have something to do with the fact I didn't eat anything all day except half a slice of really bad airport pizza and slammed down three beers when I got home, on top of the beer I had to slam on the plane. I got that one for free because the attendant forgot to bring it to me until the last minute.

It turned out to be a really cheap trip that way. I didn't have time between flights to hit the airport bars. Usually I have these huge layovers and end up spending too much money in those places. The down side of course, is that I didn't meet a single fellow traveller, but that's an impetus to get out of town more often.

Meanwhile, the ex's house is under renovation and is still very much a work in progress so it was like staying in a construction zone, but it's coming along nicely. My favorite piece of statuary is the naked gas lamp out back. He's got a glass ball thing going on out there that will be really nice when it's finished. I saw a hawk when I was out on the deck admiring it. There was amazing amount of critters out there too, considering it's in the middle of a huge city.

I didn't get to see the great blue heron that was eating the fish. I guess he got discouraged by the netting the ex put up after he ate half the stock. The survivors are a cheerful little lot though. So typical of my ex. The house is in seventeen stages of construction but the first thing he builds is the water feature. He does gets better at it every time though. This pond is his best yet.

Dear Jawjas

Clearly, I have to stop trying to make jokes cause nobody gets my humor but me. It appears I pissed off the Mullet Man with my lame brilliant attempt at humor. For the record, I would have loved to meet up with the usual suspects in Atlanta but it was simply too short a trip to socialize and believe me when I tell you that bringing the ex along was not an option.

I am sorry I missed my chance to meet you all, but someday, when you least expect it, I'm going to show up and amuse the hell out of you rocketeers. I had this idea I might pretend to be a Homeland Security agent when I arrived, since no one but Elisson really knows what I look like, but considering the lead balloon reception my last joke got, maybe I'll just wear a name tag.

In the meantime, to make up for this little misunderstanding, I'm going to add Zonker to the Rumblers roll, which I should have done ages ago since he's such an integral member of the group, even though he only posts about once a month. Click on over would you, and tell him I might be a bad comedian, but I really am a fun kind of gal.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

There's no place like home

It was a long traveling day. Dulles was dull, my seatmates were duller and United is not a fun airline to fly. My seatmates should have been more interesting, but perhaps it was my own fault for not engaging them in conversation. I had a pilot who was unexpected flying on assignment on the forward trip but he engaged in brief small talk and then played some video game the whole trip. Of course it was so bloody early, I couldn't make conversation anyway.

On the way back it looked for a moment, I might get two seats to myself and with a center arm that moved up. I was looking at comfort city when at the last second, three Indian guys in traditional dress, including turbans got on the plane. The turquoise guy sat next to me, but didn't say a word the whole trip. I don't think he spoke English. I was wishing I had drawn the white one, because he looked like he did. Meanwhile, I was stuck with a bratty three year old behind me, kicking the seat and her probably five year old brother who acted out occassionally to get some attention. Meanwhile, the mother sat across the aisle and talked to them incessantly without any apparent effect on their behavior. Not my best draw.

It was exhausting on some level but overall a good trip. It was good to get out of town and I feel like the ex and I reached some resolution that was long overdue.

Anyway, I'm whipped and I know you just want to see the pictures anyway, so here he is in front of his pick up truck. No matter what a man does for a living, if he lives in the south long enough, he's got to have himself a pickup truck.

But this being Atlanta, or thereabouts, one does not have to sacrifice the creature comforts. The requisite pickup truck will take you to the hottest new restaurant on that side of town.

And a feast of carnivorous delights it is. We opted to eat at the bar to avoid the wait for a table on a Wednesday night. We took the seats in front of the firepit because we were freezing. It's a running joke that I bring bad weather every time I go to Atlanta and it was unseasonably cold.

This picture does not do it justice. I can't figure out to turn off the flash so it looks bright, when it was really dark and glowing like a campfire at the end of a night of ghost stories and the food just looked like dark carcasses in the embers.

Word up to the Hotlanta bloggers. It's worth the drive. Good food and a classy crowd. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm alive

I arrived here in Atlanta safely but the internet is out where I'm staying and I have exactly two minutes to post here so look for me tomorrow night. In quickly looking through the iniative results I see the three major ones lost. I'm really sorry to see Colorada didn't pass the SAFER intiative but several states did pass measures that make possession of an ounce a misdemeanor so we did make some progress on the reform front.

Anyway, gotta go for now. See you tomorrow with a rundown on what happened and my thoughts on what it all means.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane...

Well it took forever to get ready. The packing took ten minutes but the little loose ends took forever. But the bills are paid, the camera is charged and I even sprung for a memory card so I could take more shots. Now I have to get some sleep, so look for me when you see me. Or at worst, I'll be back on Thursday.

Don't forget to vote.

Sex is funny - but it's not a joke

Well, sometimes it's a joke. Quote of the day from here.
"See, the problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time."
--Robin Williams
[hat tip Jules Siegel]

Addendum: In keeping with the theme this morning, a timeless repost at Gut Rumbles on Men's Rules.

Chance encounters

I've been in such a bleak mood for the last couple of days. The cursed time change has thrown me so off and I still haven't been able to readjust my internal clock. I finally gave up this morning and took a pill at 6:00am so I could sleep in. It seems to have helped. I had dreams -- albeit strange ones -- but I feel more rested than I have in days. And this little piece of news cheered me up some.

Howard Wooldridge is back on Capitol Hill to lobby for drug policy reform. He's just back so no real news to report, but he did have this amusing anecdote.
My first trip Friday into DC yielded no fun stories, just this. Because I was not meeting with politicians, I wore jeans & a windbreaker with the words THIS COP SAYS STOP THE DRUG WAR on the back. As a man exited the Metro (subway), he turned and said, “I agree completely with your jacket. By the way, I’m with the DEA.” Another good start to my new career.
Which reminds me of a conversation I had at the drug store the other day when I picking up my prescriptions. A woman bought some cough syrup for her kid. She had to show ID and get registered in the pharmacist's book. It was a convoluted process and she was clearly irritated about it.

I chimed in with, "Isn't it just crazy that you can't buy cough syrup without being treated like a criminal?" She and I and the two store clerks chatted about it for a while and all agreed it was a stupid way to fight meth. I mentioned that I had read that meth use wasn't even down and now the market had been taken over by organized crime cartels from Mexico. We all agreed that this was not a better result.

Reform. It's all about planting the seeds, folks.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Life sentence for smoking a joint

When I started at the law firm 20 years ago, I believed in justice. This is why I stopped believing in it.
First came the poor man, barely 17 years old – too young to buy beer or vote, but an adult under the Texas penal code. He took part in a $2 stickup in which no one got hurt. He pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was put on 10 years of probation.

He broke the rules once, by smoking marijuana. A Dallas judge responded in the harshest possible way: He replaced the original sentence with a life term in prison.
Same judge, different defendant.
A well-connected man pleaded guilty to murder – for shooting an unarmed prostitute in the back – and also got 10 years of probation. The killer proceeded to break the rules by, among other things, smoking crack cocaine. He repeatedly failed drug tests. He was arrested for cocaine possession in Waco while driving a congressman's car, but prosecutors there didn't press charges.

Judge Dean has let this man stay free and, last year, exempted him from most of the usual conditions of probation. John Alexander "Alex" Wood no longer must submit to drug tests or refrain from owning a gun or even meet with a probation officer. He's simply supposed to obey the law and mail the court a postcard once a year that gives his current address.
I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn the poor guy is black and the well connected man is white. Decide for yourself if justice, or society, has been served in either case.

[hat tip Jules Siegel]

Stand up for students

This is really bad news. "A federal judge granted the Bush administration's motion to dismiss Students for Sensible Drug Policy's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law that strips financial aid from college students with drug convictions."

Of all the ill-advised policies in the war on some drugs, the idea of stripping students of financial aid for college on the basis of minor youthful drug convictions is one the most counterproductive. Young people have been stripped of funding for teenage scrapes with the law over as little as less than a gram of pot, yet if they had been arrested for serious criminal acts while under the influence of alcohol, they suffer no penalities.

So what does this policy accomplish? It encourages kids to take up drinking, which is at the root of most college age crime and it denies a youthful drug offender the opportunity for higher education that would likely keep them off drugs and in a good paying job in the future. You almost have to assume that at least some of those who have been prevented from pursuing academic credentials will turn to dealing drugs in order to make a decent living. Make sense to you? Not to me either.

Having been denied their day in court, the next step is to pressure Congress to do the right thing and overturn this discriminatory and egregiously ill-considered penalty. This affects us all, marijuana consumers and non-consumers alike. Please take two minutes and send a pre-written message to your legislator. Even better, use their form and write your own. Either way, please do it today.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fly the friendly skies

I'm clearly losing my mind. The last thing I should be spending money on is traveling but I just booked a flight to Atlanta to see my ex for a couple of days. Cheapoflights made me offer I couldn't refuse. It turned out to be a bit more expensive than they led you to believe of course. Add almost a hundred bucks between the taxes and fees, but still a good price and I need to get out of town for a couple of days for my mental health. It works out cheaper than a shrink.

Besides I've haven't flown anywhere in a year and a half and I'm feeling the itch to get on a bus in the sky. And I'll certainly get plenty of air time. There's always a hitch to these cheap tickets. I have to fly north to go south. I have a stop at Dulles but it's only an hour layover and I've never been there.

I don't mind the extra fly time really. I really love airports. The mometary intimacy with strangers - the instant camarderie when you find a fellow traveler among the bored tourists and the harried businessmen. People will tell you stuff when they think they'll never see you again. Maybe some use that 30 minutes at the bar as a sort of confessional before they dare gravity for a few hours - just in case. All I know is, I've learned things I probably shouldn't know at airport bars.

Anyway, I'll be in Hotlanta Tuesday and Wednesday next week. Can't wait to have a Flying Biscuit. I hope they're still as good as they used to be.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Darkness, darkness...

I do so hate the time change. I loathe losing the light at the end of the day. It depresses me and it takes me forever to adjust. It will be another week until I don't feel like going to bed at 7:00. And it seems the dark days bring dark deeds to go with the blackness that overtakes my spirit when the sun dies.

I think one of my deer was killed by a car this week. I have no way of knowing for sure. It's not like I could pick out my three regulars out of a lineup, but the one on the side of the road was the right size and since I saw it, only one of my three has showed up in the dusk to graze for acorns. It looks so lonely by itself.

I blame it on the time change. The deer would have learned the traffic patterns but they were only yearlings and now the time is an hour off, so the one was hit by a car. I'm thinking that broke up the little harem and the other two went their own ways. It makes me sad and angry. Nonetheless, life goes on and I've ended my yearly private protest and finally changed my clocks this afternoon.

Just say thank you

I know it's early but it takes a long time for the mail to get to Iraq so I'm going ask you to dig out your Christmas spirit and support OPERATION: LOVE FROM HOME
During this holiday season, let's show our troops we love and support them!!!! From September 30 to November 30, I will be collecting holiday cards for troops stationed in high-combat areas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Being away from home and living in harsh conditions during the holiday season is especially difficult ~ they need to know we have not forgotten them!!! Mail from home helps to keep our troops' morale strong, making a very real difference in their lives.

Send your signed, unsealed holiday cards to:

Mrs. Kathy Orr
P.O. Box 1660
Loganville, Georgia, 30052

If you wish to send an email greeting (which will be printed off and mailed along with the holiday cards), please send an email to:
Kathy has been doing this for a long time and your cards will get to the soldiers. No matter how you feel about the war, the men on the ground need to know that they're remembered at home and that we don't blame them for this debacle. So take twenty minutes out of your day and do something tangible to support a soldier.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Art for Acid Lovers

Rob Smith's daughter Sam has a new blog. It's a showcase for her work, like the Art on a Card in the graphic. You can get one of those for only five bucks and they appear to be one of kind artworks. She's posting as well and has a incredible story about a dream she recently had about her father. Check it out.

And speaking of the Acidman, Gut Rumbles lives in the memory and heart of Stevie who is lovingly combing the really old archives and posting some great classics over there that are new to me and mucho pictures from when he was wild and healthy.

It's not the same of course, because you know he's not coming back to banter, but if you came in late like I did -- these old posts I missed, explain a lot about the man I came to know at the end.

Bowled over in Fall River

When I was working for the law firm, Paul Viveros was one my all time favorite clients. He's been fighting City Hall in Fall River, MA for as long as I've known him and unfortunately the city has prevailed against him every time. Well, they may have won in court, but Paul gets the last laugh.

In an artistic coup de grace, he's erected the most perfect work of art on his property at the entrance of the Fall River Industrial Park that totally sums up the city's politics and would make any redneck proud. He got a lot of press but the only photo I could find is this one which doesn't really do it justice. Absolutely brilliant.

I just got off the phone with him. He tells me it has become quite the tourist attraction with no less than ten people a day stopping to get photos of the installation. One group of fourteen actually dropped their drawers, sat down and had photos of themselves taken while reading a newspaper. Fortunately no one so far, has mistaken them for functioning units. You gotta love it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Just a walk in the park

John and I went for a walk at the botanical gardens this afternoon. I'm so pathetic. We walked for about an hour and a half at most and I'm worn out so all you get today is couple of pictures. I was fooling around with the settings today and the light was failing by the time we got there so I didn't get many shots worth posting. But I did like the gardens enough to go back.

We walked the little trail into the woods first. This was my favorite part. How sweet of them to build stairs to get over the stump, really.

The formal gardens were overgrown and not a lot was in bloom but the place is littered with sculptures. You never know what creatures you might see around the corner of the path.

And these guys were one of my favorites. This one wasn't for sale but you can buy the Martians, complete with the spaceship for only $2,750. Pretty good deal if the thing really flies. The brochure didn't say.

The fire down below

Well, it's a beautiful day in the south. It's supposed to get up to almost 80 degrees today, so I'm going to go out and enjoy it. It appears to be the last truly warm day for a while.

I'll be back eventually, but here's something to think about in the interim. I know I've haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I read it last night. What do think? Should I go pink?

[Via Tits McGee, the A-lister of link finders. Check her out, there's always more where this came from.]