Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Life is Funny, But It's Not a Joke

Well this is kind of cool. The Detroit News just invited me to be a guest blogger on their website. I sent in the application so long ago, I had almost forgotten about it. The timing is not great; it's going to be a busy month for me but I think it would be fun. And although the theme over there is skewed towards straight presidential politics, I would love a chance to spread some Last One Speaks style logic around the mid-west, so I sent in my acceptance.

They say they give you editorial control over your content and their few rules seem reasonable enough. I loved this one in particular.

The News will kill such posts as well as blogs that commit ad hominem attacks aimed at anyone who is not a public figure .....

I believe that means I can still call Bush our Commander in Thief.

I hope this not someone's idea of an elaborate April Fools joke, but if it is -- it's a really good one. And if it's not, I love the idea of starting this gig on April Fools day but I think the joke may be on the Detroit News.

Gilmore v. Ashcroft

My friend John Gilmore has been arguing against the indignities of privacy invasion by our government for a long time. Under post 9/11 homeland security excesses, he has had a lot more to fight about. Unfortunately, a US federal court shot down his lawsuit against our US Attorney General this week. The suit was filed after he was not allowed to board a commercial airliner because he refused to show identification.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston granted motions to dismiss John Gilmore's lawsuit against Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and government officials, saying the court may toss out cases when they're not based on a clear legal theory or when they are factually insufficient.

Illston also rejected Gilmore's claims that the ID requirement violated his constitutional protection from illegal searches and seizures.

The judge simply did not agree with his claims although the case is still alive since she refused to reach some of the issues for lack of jurisdiction.

The judge also tossed out claims that the vague regulations violated due process. But she did so because challenges to regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration or the Transportation Security Administration fall under the jurisdiction of the appellate courts.

Gilmore is undeterred.

"Judge Illston confirmed I do have standing to challenge but said, `You're in the wrong court,'" Gilmore said Tuesday. "I need to go to the court of appeals. I will continue working on the issue. This isn't the end."

You can be certain you'll hear about this case again. John has the time and the determination to see this through to SCOTUS if necessary, and he's not one to get discouraged over set-backs along the way. For background and a look at the pleadings, check John's website on the subject, And while you're there check out the rest of his site that details some of his many other projects.

By the way, the graphic for this post comes from John's site. He was kicked off another plane for refusing to remove that pin.
Warm Welcome at the White House

Colombia Week has a new issue out with an excellent op-ed on "the victories" in the drug war. Thanks to US funded aerial eradication efforts, the CIA estimates 21% of the Colombia coca crop has been eliminated. Bush and his minions --never ones to let a little thing like the truth get in the way of a good photo op-- have declared this proof positive that the war on drugs is working.

However as W. John Green points out:

U.S. street prices for cocaine have not risen a cent and that the drug's supply has remained steady. coca cultivation has been hampered in one place, it has moved on to others.

...spraying has pushed many coca farmers further into the Amazon and led many others to avoid detection by planting the crop on smaller parcels and interspersing it with vital food crops.

...the spraying is becoming more dangerous for the pilots. In 2003, at least six went down and four of those were shot out of the sky by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country's largest guerrilla group.

Meanwhile, Uribe is in Washington, bartering trading rights for more "military aid", apparently unconcerned that the agreements would not be signed until 2006 when there should be a new administration. I don't like the sound of this.

Interviewed by the Bogota daily El Tiempo, Colombian Ambassador to the United States Luis Alberto Moreno said a Democratic presidential victory would not jeopardize support for Plan Colombia or a trade pact. "John Kerry's main foreign policy advisors, Rand Beers and Sandy Berger, know the situation perfectly well," Moreno said. "Kerry has always voted in favor of Colombia when the issue has come up before Congress."

Uribe, with the support of Bush, Tom Daschle and Henry Hyde is also asking to double the cap on military personnel and civil contractors allowed to be stationed in the country, but there's a least one legislator with common sense inside the beltway. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) on March 22 told Congress she opposes deepening U.S. involvement in that country's war:

"President Bush's policy in Colombia is a miserable failure. Risking the lives of more U.S. soldiers and wasting millions more taxpayer dollars on private military contractors will only make that policy worse. The Colombian people deserve more from the Bush administration than a policy that will escalate violence and do nothing to promote a peaceful resolution to a civil war that has ravaged that nation for more than forty years."

Indeed they do.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004
It's DaBomb

The rumor mill runs amok in lovely downtown Northampton tonight. I was home sick, only blocks away and missed all the excitement and I am not at all vouching for the veracity of this, but I do trust my sources to at least get close to the true facts.

It seems that someone posted a package to John Ashcroft this afternoon, in the mailbox right in front of the courthouse. The person who did the pickup allegedly brought it into the building to have it scanned by the metal detectors at the public entrance on Gothic Street. I would guess he found it slightly suspicious, but not enough to risk public embarrassment if he was wrong and called in the bomb squad. He probably knows the guards. So they all had a look. Unfortunately, they saw a clock and a mass of something in the package.

The ensuing uproar was apparently a sight to behold. Every form of law enforcement officer in the immediate area reportedly showed up for this one, including of course HazMat and the bomb squad.

There was apparently also a great deal of confusion at the courthouse over the incident and it took 45 minutes before they decided to evacuate the building. This is a lose, lose situation for the postman and the courthouse guards could be reprimanded as well I suppose for misuse of government scanners or something. I hope nothing bad happens to them.

No one could tell me what happened to "the bomb", but no one got hurt and the consequences remain to be seen. I think the three of them must have either just freaked when they realized it really could be dangerous or more likely, were stuck keeping it because the scans are recorded and they had a protocol to follow. Otherwise, I can't figure out why they wouldn't have just brought it back outside. I know these men. They're macho guys. They would not be afraid to move it again and there are parking lots all around the building.

We'll be posting the local coverage on this one tomorrow.
Battered Population Syndrome

In a moment of synchronicity, I stumbled onto this story about Afghanistan in the NYT today, G.I.'s in Afghanistan on Hunt, but Now for Hearts and Minds [Free Reg Required]. Our military is trying a different tack with the indigenous these days. In a kind of good cop/bad cop scenario, they use bribery first and only resort to intimidation if bribery doesn't work.

...on this afternoon, his mission was not combat. It was the distribution of blankets, shirts and sewing kits to destitute Afghan villagers.

For the previous hour, American Army medics had doled out free antibiotics, asthma medication and antacids. Lieutenant Finn sipped tea with Muhammad Sani, a wizened village elder, and offered to pay for a new school or well.

"The more they help us find the bad guys," Lieutenant Finn explained, "the more good stuff they get."

As the effort to find Osama bin Laden and uproot the Taliban intensifies, the United States military is shifting tactics. A mission once limited to sweeps, raids and searches has in recent months yielded to an exercise in nation building. The hope is that a better relationship with local residents and a stronger Afghan state will produce better intelligence and a speedier American departure. But the tension between building schools one day and rounding up suspects at gunpoint the next makes the prospects for success far from clear.

November is coming on fast and the pressure is on. We're sending 150 men at a time to cover 15-25 mile chunks of land at the Pakinstani border, that contain along the lines of, "more than 300 villages, three major ethnic Pashtun tribes, countless subtribes and a smuggling route used by the Taliban and Al Qaeda to slip from Pakistan into Afghanistan."

Our guys are supposed to win over the people, who have been burned by the broken promises of many "liberators" in the decades past. I don't why they think tactics like this will help.

Visibly angry, the Americans tied the teenager's hands, placed a burlap sack on his head and pushed him down a steep hillside. As an American soldier knelt on the boy's back and pushed his face into the dirt, Sergeant Jarzab demanded to know if there were more hidden weapons.

"He's a liar, and he's going to Cuba," the sergeant shouted, although he later ordered the boy freed. The boy insisted he had found the mortar and planned to sell it.

As watching Afghan women wailed and recited prayers, one sergeant placed the mortar round on the teenager's back, and another held the captured rifles in the air. A soldier snapped a souvenir photo of the Americans and their quarry.

We destroyed their country. We alternate between bringing aid and terrorizing their villages. How are these uneducated people to know whether to welcome us or fear us?

At 6 the following morning, Captain Condrey and his soldiers woke up in the riverbed. Within an hour, 80 curious Afghan villagers were sitting on the riverbank staring at them.

The moment seemed to epitomize the overwhelming power the American military wields in Afghanistan, but also how separate it remains from Afghan society.

The article details three days with this platoon on their patrol. It's long and disturbing, but well written. As they say, worth reading in full.
Black Market Currency

I could have told them this. The Financial Times reports, Afghan economy 'at risk of relying on drug trade'.

A United Nations body will warn this week that Afghanistan is in danger of reverting to an economy entirely dependent on the illegal drug trade and a "terrorist breeding ground" unless the international community significantly increases development funding to the war-torn country.

...Hamid Karzai, Afghan president, has announced that parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled for June, will be postponed until September, a tacit acknowledgement that reconstruction efforts have stumbled.

The UNDP report notes Iraq is receiving "10 times as much development assistance with roughly the same size of population". Development inflows amount to $67 (?55, ?37) per person, compared with $248 in Bosnia Herzegovina and $256 in East Timor, according to the report.

The Afghanis will ask the western governments for 28 billion in aid at the upcoming conference in Berlin. They are likely to get 4 billion. However the west will pump in about 14 billion in "military costs". Where are the priorities here?

Sending guns instead of building bricks, will not help the Afghani people who are still living in the rubble without the basic infrastructures of civilized life.

Morer than half the population live in extreme poverty, and only Sierre Leone ranks below Afghanistan on the UNDP's human development index. Life expectancy is below 50.

In Badakshan, northern Afghanistan, a maternal mortality rate of 6,500 per 100,000 is the "highest ever recorded in any part of the world", the report says.

The reliance on poppy production for drugs has become part of ordinary people's "coping strategy", especially as only 37 per cent of poppy-producing households are poor, compared with 54 per cent of those not involved in poppy production.

Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld, insists that the Bush Team has not ignored the terrorist threat there.

"If one looks at what was done, we went to Afghanistan - we didn't go to Iraq," he told ABC News. "It certainly took away their training, their haven, and it certainly destroyed the Taliban and eliminated them from running the country."

I would feel more confident in that assessment if I didn't know our men are still dying there, fighting as late as this week at the Pakistan border trying to get Osama's top gun and that the Taliban and the Al Qaeda are regaining power and financing through the heroin trade.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Drug War Rant

When the Music's Over, Turn Out the Lights

There's a couple of odd pieces I don't want to let pass without posting. This first one has been making the rounds. Jules Siegel sent it to me first, but once again, Drug War Rant has already posted a most amusing take on it, including the opening graphic that we just snitched from him.

It's actually a disturbing story about yet another law enforcement raid on an innocent household in our government's zeal to imprison cannabis consumers instead of killers and child molesters.

This household was under suspicion because as family of seven, they used more electricity than their neighbors and they didn't take their trash out until the morning of the pickup. The commando raid was at least announced though. They called the Man of the House, who reached his wife, who was doing volunteer work at the school, so she could go and let in the drug agents, so they wouldn't have to break down the door.

Imagine receiving that call. "Oh honey, could you run home and let in the DEA agents....."

The search turned up -- zippo, nada, absolutely no contraband. The cops don't think they should have to apologize though, because they had an unsubstantiated tip from an informant and a drug dog they walked around the periphery of the property indicated the presence of drugs. They believe this justifies terrorizing this family in front of their neighbors.

And speaking of making light of grievous errors, this Blah3 video comes via Atrios. As he points out, "what's so funny? (remember...the people laughing here are the beltway media)."

While were at Blah3, we also found a delicious little news item. However, you won't relish this link unless you also think that Karl Rove is the root of all political evil.
More on Medical Marijuana

Six months ago, the guys at the bar at City Cafe, mocked me when I predicted medmar would become an issue in this election. It appears I was right though. Every day it seems another public figure comes out in support of its use.

Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders' recent opinion piece, Myths about medical marijuana, is a case in point. Drug War Rant already posted on this story and as always, Pete speaks my thoughts so well, I won't duplicate it. Check out Elders' excellent deconstruction of our drug czar's myths and prevarications over there. For example:

"There is no evidence that marijuana is a medicine." The truth: The medical literature on marijuana goes back 5,000 years. In a 1999 study commissioned by the White House, the Institute of Medicine reported, "nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety . . . all can be mitigated by marijuana." In its April 2003 issue, the British medical journal The Lancet reported that marijuana relieves pain in virtually every test that scientists use to measure pain relief.

"Marijuana is too dangerous to be medicine; it's bad for the immune system, endangering AIDS and cancer patients." The truth: Unlike many of the drugs we prescribe every day, marijuana has never been proven to cause a fatal overdose. Research on AIDS patients has debunked the claim of harm to the immune system: In a study at San Francisco General Hospital, AIDS patients using medical marijuana gained immune-system cells and kept their virus under control as well as patients who received a placebo. They also gained more needed weight.

Meanwhile, that relentlessly tiresome disinformer Mark Souder, is once again sticking his nose in where it doesn't belong. He actually asked the U.S. FDA to send a warning letter to a Canadian company that sells medical-use marijuana. One wonders how he has time to deal with the concerns of his constituency with all the time he spends meddling. Last time I looked Indiana was not in Canada. He of course spews the usual prohibitionist dreck.

In a letter sent this week, Souder asked the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration to tell the Canadian company, Amigula, that it can not send marijuana to U.S. customers and that "any advertisements promoting marijuana for a medical purpose will be regulated under the existing rules that apply for direct-to-consumer marketing of drugs, including stating the adverse health risks."

Maybe Souder should have checked their order forms before he started threatening them.

"We don't ship into the U.S.," Warren Eugene, the founder of Amigula, said Thursday. "Souder should not involve himself in Canadian policies."

Souder doesn't plan to stop with Amigula however.

[He] told FDA Acting Commissioner Lester Crawford to "immediately send warning letters to all states, localities and sellers of marijuana explaining that botanical marijuana has not been approved by the FDA for medical use and cannot be advertised as such and imposing penalties, as appropriate, on those that continue to illegally promote this dangerous drug as medicine."

This despite the fact that nine states currently legalize the medicinal use of the herb and three others have legislation pending. Further, in December, a federal court ruled that the federal law prohibiting medical marijuana may not apply to sick people who live in states that permit marijuana to be used for medical reasons and who have a doctor's recommendation.

Souder has repeatedly stated that, "There are no generally recognized health benefits to smoking marijuana."

Who are you going to believe, a career politician whose political power depends on the continued prohibition of cannabis, or a former Surgeon General who has dedicated her life to medicine?
Republican for Curative Cannabis

Thanks to Sherri The Writer for this excellent op-ed on medical marijuana from an unlikely source. The author, John Wilson, is a Bronx attorney.

I am an enrolled, card-carrying, President Bush- and war-in-Iraq-supporting conservative. You might expect me -- a lawyer, former prosecutor and law chairman of the Bronx County chapter of the state Conservative Party -- to oppose legislation allowing the medicinal use of marijuana.

You would be wrong. Many conservatives like me strongly support the medicinal use of marijuana, mostly because we have seen firsthand how medical marijuana can help desperately ill people.

As is usually the case, Mr. Wilson saw the benefits of our plant while watching his 40 year old brother-in-law die of pancreatic cancer. I wish every prohibitionist who refuses to admit the curative value of this herb, could have seen the world through his eyes for those years.

He was suffering, both from his illness and from the treatments his doctors prescribed. Marijuana helped to ease that suffering. It relieved his pain and nausea, giving him back his appetite and stopping his weight loss.

Medical marijuana gave John more than two years of life, and it made that time less painful. It worked when legal prescription medications did not.

Yet, the laws of New York treat patients like my brother-in-law as criminals.

The experience has converted Wilson from a critic to an advocate and he is now working to support New York's medical marijuana legislation. He notes that the ten states that have already enacted similar legislation, have implemented the laws with "few problems and little impact on their law enforcement activities." He makes a strong case.

For many years, doctors have been allowed to prescribe such drugs as morphine, cocaine and methamphetamine, which are much more addictive and dangerous than marijuana. Physicians are in the best position to know whether medical marijuana would help a patient; they should be allowed to make that decision legally.

...Medical organizations across the country support medical marijuana laws. Last year, the New York State Association of County Health Officials, all of whom are physicians, joined them, stating: "Marijuana has proven to be effective in the treatment of people with HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer and those suffering from severe pain or nausea."

I'm always sorry when we win a recruit from the prohibition side because they witnessed how it benefited a loved one who is dying. But I'm glad that they are willing to then speak out, in order to spare someone else unnecessary suffering. As Mr. Wilson says:

We have an opportunity to let humanity and justice guide us, to stop treating users of medical marijuana as criminals, and to honor John and others like him who need our help as they seek a longer, less painful life.

It's long past time for our legislators to heed his words.
News Briefs

Thanks to Paul von Hartmann for forwarding NORML's newsletter. I'm not subscribed to this one and it's an especially good issue.

The lead item on a coalition of European NGOs criticizing the UN-sponsored drug prohibition policies at a symposium last week has some great quotes.

Former Interpol Secretary General Raymond Kendall said that the UN must "change its approach from repressive law enforcement" to one of harm reduction.

"The United Nations in 1998 set itself the aim of a drug free world by 2008," he said. "We are halfway down the road to 2008 and there are more drugs than ever. So much for the idea we have made progress."

Canadian Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, who chaired a 2002 Senate committee that recommended regulating cannabis to those age 16 and older, said: "A drug free society has never existed in human history and will not exist in the near future. ... Sooner or later, governments around the world will have to, in the names of transparency and honesty, acknowledge this massive failure."

It also has the details on Ann Arbor's annual Hash Bash and the new decrim law enacted in Western Australia.

Under the new statewide law, those who possess up to 30 grams of pot (approximately one ounce) and/or cultivate up to two marijuana plants will no longer face criminal charges.

I don't quite understand this provision though. Maybe they are worried about water usage?

The law expressly forbids cultivating marijuana hydroponically.

It also announces new clinical trial data to be published in the April issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry about recently completed studies on the treatment of human cells with cannabidiol. The results look promising in combating Alzheimer's disease.

It's well worth reading in full.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

It's Your Call

Medical marijuana is the topic tomorrow night on CN8's Lynn Doyle show. I don't know if it airs on cable, but you can watch it on line here.

The show airs from 9:00 to 10:00 pm, with a rebroadcast at midnight. Appearing for our side will be two of Media Awareness Project's best, Jim Miller and Philippe Lucas.

On the prohibition side will be Terrence Farley, NJ assistant prosecutor and Director of the Ocean Co. Narcotics Strike Force, along with his side kick, attorney David Evans, Counsel For the Legal Foundation Against Illegal Drugs and Executive Director of the Drug-free Schools Coalition.

I saw Farley on the last program CN8 did on legalization. He was predictably tiresome and disinformative. That was also the program Ed Forchion was dis-invited to. The show didn't impress me much, although Keith Stroup did well when they allowed him to speak, which wasn't often enough. I hope Ms. Doyle manages to keep a little more objectivity on tomorrow's program.

The show airs live and they take phone calls and emails during the program. Good luck getting one on air, they use about a half dozen of them. They do respond to every one of your emails though.

It's clearly an auto-response but someone actually reads it before they hit auto-reply and a blitz of positive email for our side will make an impression on Ms. Boyle and may convince her to give our guys a better share of the air time. Not to mention a large volume of mail could convince the station manager to schedule more programming on the subject.

In any event, it should be a very interesting show. Tune in if you can.

Kicking Butts

It's been a funny weekend. Yesterday defied the weatherman and the afternoon got warm and sunny. It felt great to go out for a walk in sneakers and my Mets jacket instead of boots and my big black coat. It definitely helped with the cigarette cravings. It will be a month tomorrow and for some reason the last three days have been really difficult. I just want to quit quitting. Holding firm however; I think the wellbutrin and Commit have made the difference.

I went to the Eagles club for Sally the weekend bartender's benefit party last night. I was late for that but came in time to donate anyway and I'm happy to report that the results were significant judging from the stunned look on Sally's face.

The shuffleboard game was in full swing and of course I had to play. I was worried about being rusty, and my partner definitely carried the day, but I held my own and we won both games. I hadn't been there in months, but it kind of felt like I had never been away. I was greeted like the prodigal son returned. Lots of hugs and back slapping made me feel welcomed back.

Meanwhile, to the four of you who asked me to install comments, I did it a week ago and your response has been underwhelming. However, I found out the function is working, thanks to the hate mail from all the Young Republicans commenting at this post. Last count was 34 and still growing. One and half of them were positive. The rest want to kick my butt and commit other cruel acts on my body because I had the nerve to suggest this so-called 'violence' that barely required a bandaid, much less hospital treatment, is page three news at best.

If I thought it would do any good, I would go back to Margolis' post and point out how I extrapolated my theory of the occasion based on his own narrative. I don't have that kind of time to waste on lost causes, however. These kids are not really looking for civilized debate, they're looking for justification for bad behavior.

I'm certainly not going to feed them again on the comment board. I don't think they're scrolling past that post however, so for my regular readers, I offer this last analysis of the event. I wasn't there, but I know Boston and provoking a fight with a blue collar worker, union or not, is like shooting fish in a barrel, (which is not to imply that every blue collar worker is a brawler). I'm sorry it came to any kind of physical contact, but those kids willfully and knowingly put themselves in the situation and were looking to incite a confrontation so they could get the press attention.

They made a huge deal about needing police protection after the incident and then continued to insist on placing themselves in the middle of the Bush detractors. Without that I doubt that the Globe would have even reported the scuffle. For them, and even Glenn Reynolds, to equate this isolated (and I maintain manufactured) incident as some proof that the left has devolved into a group of lunatics who prefer violence to civilized debate would be laughable except they seem to believe it. And the unsubtle equation of this "hyper-violent" episode with the war in Iraq goes beyond ridiculous.

I find it choice in any event, these "moral folks" who are so willing to send others in their place to fight their glorious wars, can support the atrocities of the Bush regime and then make a federal case about being pushed to a sidewalk. I shudder to think what would happen to them if they were on the front lines in Iraq and I can't help but wonder if the union guy has a family member there or perhaps has already lost someone close to him, to the daily ticking of body bags trickling steadily back into the country. Margolis and his friends look young and healthy. If they're so gung-ho on supporting their hero's war, why don't they go and fight it instead of picking fights on the sidewalk?

I'm truly sorry the altercation occurred. I'm glad they were not seriously injured and I apologize to the union guy for any unintended implication that he was too stupid to debate verbally. I meant that remark to illustrate the difference in backgrounds and opportunities. And if the Margolis kids come from an underprivileged background and had to work their way through college by slaving away at part time jobs, I will apologize for calling them spoiled brats. Aaron Margolis commented that they do have jobs, so I do apologize for saying they were living on their parent's money. I'm still betting they didn't obtain employment based on a community college BA though.

For my part, I admit my post was strident and in fact hasty. Perhaps I should done a little fact checking beyond young Matt's post, but it was an opinion piece, not a news report. I acted out of an irritating certainty that the big boys of the BPAC were about to give this story legs, and skew it to fit their agenda. The irony of course is that I realized I'm now contributing to the phenomenon that irritated me enough to post in the first place. Two more hate mails arrived while I was posting this.

I believe this is what the Free Republic crowd considers freeping the comment board. The hell of it is, since I asked for them, I feel obligated to read them all eventually.

Saturday, March 27, 2004
Power of the Pen

Ah, it all becomes clear. Here's one reason Uribe came to his senses on the fumigation issue. Public opinion seems to count more in the Latin American countries. I would guess it's because the people have demonstrated their willingness to fight, and even die, for their political beliefs.

Daniel Samper Pizano has turned his column in the Bogota daily El Tiempo into a megaphone rallying the public against U.S.-backed antidrug spraying in Colombia's 49 national parks. His writing led to a two-day deluge of more than 1,100 angry messages on El Tiempo's Web site. It sparked a March 18 protest in Bogota outside the agency that oversees the parks. And it threatens to turn an upcoming Senate debate on the spraying into another protest scene.

Samper, whose brother Ernesto served as the nation's president from 1994 to 1998, has been been shining the spotlight on this issue since February, exposing the conflict of interest between newly appointed Minister of the Environment Suarez with the U.S.-funded antidrug program.

He ratcheted up the public outcry with susequent columns urging his readers to take action. The response emboldened the newspaper of record there, El Tiempo, to take for the first time an editorial stand against the fumigation and also solicit comments. They received 1,167, some with new information.

The parks fumigation order, for example, came from former Col. Alfonso Plazas Vega, head of the narcotics council. Plazas helped plan and carry out the 1985 bombing of Colombia's Palace of Justice, occupied by members of a guerrilla group called M-19. The bombing killed at least 76 civilians, including the country's 11 Supreme Court justices. Plazas also helped form Death to Kidnappers (MAS), a forebear of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the country's main paramilitary federation.

Don't have to look hard to see a private agenda there. The US gives them guns and other artillery in addition to the herbicide deliveries. They routinely pass M-16s out to kids there.

There are 800,000 indigenous Colombians living in the parks and countless species of flora and fauna. Not to mention the cities that depend on them for their water supply. All are threatened.

Quote of the day on this issue goes to El Tiempo!'s editorial.

"To not fumigate the national parks would be, for one honorable time, to put the national interest of a country with the second greatest environmental wealth on the planet before the interest of the United States." [emphasis added]
Spray Planes Grounded

Here's some good news for a change on Plan Colombia. The government has dropped its plans to fumigate cocaine crops in the country's national parks.

"There won't be any spraying in the parks until other alternatives are examined, such as manual eradication," said Environment Minister Sandra Suarez.

Colombia's spectacular national parks, which cover 25 million acres of jungle and mountainside, harbor some of the most diverse populations of plant, bird, and animal species in the world. They also reportedly harbor guerrillas and coca plants.

Environmentalists criticized Plan Colombia from the start, saying its herbicides damage the environment and harm peasants.

The government has dismissed those claims and said drug producers destroy jungle to plant coca and poison water with chemicals used to refine cocaine.

The government's claim is absurd of course. While clear cutting and chemical contamination does occur in the processing of coca paste, it does not approach the ecological damage being done by the widescale aerial spraying of herbicide.

Eradication is a problem, not a solution. The answer as always, is to legalize the plant for it's agricultural uses and legalize the drug to destroy the need for clandestine jungle labs.

Think about it. If it were being manufactured under industry regulations, it would eliminate the need for a black market, the chemicals would be disposed of safely and the addicts could be clinically treated instead of caged.

[Link thanks to Preston Peet]
Silver and Gold

Before we close the bloggers meet-up story, there's one other person I met there. Pete Silver is so interesting I'm giving him his own post. Pete tells me he started his blog on the day Ralph Nader declared for the presidency because he was so irritated by it. He only has four posts so far but he's a busy guy. Take a look at his website and you'll see why.

Pete's an idea man, the entrepreneur's entrepreneur. Among his other marketing services, he buys cool phone numbers and domain names and resells them. He owns every permutation of his own name of course but I was surprised to hear that nobody had ever scooped up the CoC address for, what with all the Springfields in the country. I had always thought there was one in every state. I was astonished to find out there are only 25 of them but still a smart investment, no?

He's led an interesting life, from working as a photojournalist for major publications to speechwriting for Janet Reno and as you can see from the graphic -- he is photogenic.
The Right Whines

This is so typical of the BPAC (Bush Policy Apologists Cabal) and is just too irritating to ignore. You have this little smart ass college kid with too much time and money on his hands, all dewy-eyed because his hero, the Great Deceiver in Chief is in town and he gets in the face of burly blue collar worker who is struggling to meet his mortgage because of Bush's economic policies. What did they expect? That the union guy was going to thank this spoiled brat, whose parents are probably still paying his bills, for his input?

If Margolis really wanted to make a civilized statement, he should have waved his sign on his own side of the street or kept his mouth shut. Instead he paid the price for his bad manners by -- oh, the horror -- getting pushed down on the sidewalk and now the BPAC has jumped on the story like a flock of ravenous vultures and turned it into another plastic turkey in a teapot event.

Guess it's not that surprising since they certainly can't find anything substantive to defend in Bush administration policy. When in doubt, they throw the facts out and focus on the inane.

It's going to a long election year.

UPDATE: I'm surprised at the reaction I'm getting on this post. To all of you who are accusing me of excusing thuggery, let me clarify my position.

Don't be ridiculous. I don't condone violence, but neither will I condemn it when Margolis deliberately provoked it. By his own account he continued to engage this man in uninvited debate, even when he saw that he was upsetting him.

Margolis, enjoying the privilege of an expensive college education, verbally pushed this guy first. The union guy probably didn't get the same advantage, so he fought back with what he had, his fists - and Margolis is, or should have been, smart enough to know that he was likely to do so.

There's a difference between voicing your opinion and abusing your First Amendment right by inciting violence and Margolis crossed the line. Further, he admits that the injuries were minor. By his own description of the event, it appears to have been on the level of a bar scuffle and judging from the photograph, I have no doubt that if the union guy had wanted to, he could have seriously injured any one of those kids.

That aside, what irritated me initially was the right's rush to turn this into a big incident. They would have ignored it or dismissed it had the players' political affiliations been reversed. Instead they turn it into another toy for Tim Blair, who is probably getting very tired of chewing on that plastic turkey by now.

Friday, March 26, 2004
Wish I Really Looked Like Grace Kelly

This is actually a post about the meetup last night, but Grace does figure into this story eventually. Anyway, the only bloggers on the MassLive blogroll that I recognized by name, Henning and Suki, weren't there. I was sorry to miss them but was glad to meet Greg Saulmon of Life On State along with his lovely wife Mary, and Pete Deville of Group DeVille. I was particularly glad to meet Debbie from Craftytown. I had read her yesterday for the first time and I thought our writing style was kind of alike and we have the same kind of earthy energy in person.

In any event, all of us of in this Lovely Downtown Noho contingent realized before the end of the evening, that the common thread in our vague recollection of each other was the Baystate Hotel. I passed them a drink from behind the bar more than once as a bartender there, but they weren't regulars like Henning who ran part of the music operation.

Meanwhile the Springfield contingent didn't know quite what to make of me. I kind of came in charged from the walk over, and drinking coffee, even decaf at that hour was not a great move. I should have asked for water but the Woodstar Cafe smells so good. How could I not order coffee. I was buzzed in three sips and I must admit I got just a little boisterous. I think I may have scared them.

Jennifer Adams of West Side Story apparently wasn't that impressed. She didn't link to me in her account of the event but she may just forgotten my name. There were a lot of people. Kristen of Sound Check and Sigh Club and I didn't get to spend much time together either, but I wished we had after chatting with her briefly at the end of the evening.

Meanwhile, gently is MassLive revenged for my taking pot shots at Scott Brodeur's butt. Scott posted a photo of me in full harangue mode, one of the rare times I wasn't smiling and at my absolute worst camera angle, (thank you very much to the photog), blasting away at Mr. Big, Greg Movie Boy Tulonen, for dissing my blog and ignoring my correspondence. I noticed I was getting a little jowly in my old age. I swear, next lifetime, I'm going to be photogenic.

In any event I want to say thanks to the guys for putting me on their blogroll so quickly. I hope we can call it even now for my earlier post. They really do seem to be nice guys who are trying to make a blog thing happen on the local level and deserve some support.

So what does this have to do with Grace Kelly, you may ask. I'm going to tell you. I really do wish I looked like her. My friend Ron owned the Baystate Hotel when I bartended there and met all these Northampton bloggers. Ron and I used to watch old movies together when the bar was slow and we spoke often of this. I had other choices as well, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Kathleen Turner... but Grace was definitely my first choice.

The Baystate is long gone now but Ron and I have maintained a solid friendship and every now and then, in our warmer moments, he still calls me Grace.

Graphic courtesy of, a site by and for women..., often imitated, never equaled.

Sunny Day

It's absolutely gorgeous out there this afternoon, so I'm going to ignore my burgeoning email box and send you to my buddy Pete at Drug War Rant for your afternoon reading today. I've been meaning to link to these stories anyway.

He has great posts up. He discusses student drug testing, sets Kleiman straight with a great analysis on the drug czar's campaign against doctors, and has the straight dope on DEA Bad Girl Michele Leonhart who was recently confirmed as Deputy Administrator of the agency.

Enjoy and I'll be back after dark with the gory details from last night's meetup and of course, the late breaking drug war news. Right now I going to sit in the sun.
Carnival #79

The aptly named Pete Holiday is the host of the Carnival of the Vanities this week. I love Pete and not just because he gave us the number four slot in the Carnival. He claims to be an asshole, but he can't really hide the nice guy behind the sardonic quotes, which are my favorite part of his page. I don't know how he does it but the quotes in the header change every time you click into a different screen.

He's got quite a rotating roster of these. I'm giving him quote of the day with my favorite:

Someday we'll all look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.
Freep this Poll

Please help save the students of San Marcos from the indignity of having to pee in a cup. The San Marcos Daily Record is running an unscientific readers poll asking, "Do you support drug testing for public school students? " Right now the results are running 64 percent in favor. This poll is getting old and won't be open much longer. Please take a moment this morning to click in and vote. The poll is located on the left bar and you don't have to register to participate. We of course voted no.

[Thanks to Elmer Elevator for the tip]

Thursday, March 25, 2004
Long Way Home

I try to make it a point to have fun, no matter what I'm doing and for the most part I succeed although I have to say some times are easier than others. Tonight was one of those much more enjoyable than expected times. I don't get many of them and I definitely had fun. I met a lot of really cool people I didn't know before and saw a lot of locals that I hadn't seen in all too long.

It's too big a story to tell at this hour. I haven't been out this late in months. I would have been home earlier but I stopped to give Ron the highlights on my way back. He knew I was going because I talked to him about it yesterday and he was waiting at City, now known as Tully O'Reilly's Pub, for the details.

It was a kind of ethereal night . I loved walking over and looking in the windows of lovely downtown Noho. It's been much too long since I have.

Downtown Sounds has a great display right now. I haven't been able to discern the ID on it, but it looks like that beautiful woman with the long hair's work, I think her name is Dolmanish. Faces also had a striking display. I thought the concept was interesting although somewhat uninspired. I was impressed with how they managed to hang all those red chairs invisibly though.

The defining moment of my walk -- for the first time in months -- past Faces, happened only mere yards away. I love kid's books and the graphics on the picture book in the window of Beyond Words caught my eye. I had to stop to read the title. . It was "Walter The Farting Dog." Honest.

Boy am I out of the loop. Last I remember it was Clifford, that big red dog that kids read about. Anyway, it was a big night and I'm off to bed. Details of the blogger meetup to follow tomorrow.

Meet Up

I generally hate this sort of thing, and this is the last thing I have time to do, but I'm going to the blogger's meetup anyway mainly because I want to kick Scott Brodeur's butt. He's the editor of the site here, affiliated with the local Springfield rag, which as Patterico would say is pretty much a dog trainer.

I rarely do this, but let me explain. We are a international group at Last One Speaks -- our readership spans the entire globe. We've become pretty well known or at least a little well known, pretty much everywhere in the world, except in our own hometown. I decided to try to build some local traffic and submitted my URL three times since January. Not only has Scott not put me on the blogroll, he has failed to respond to my inquiries on the matter. I figure either I'll leave this meeting with an explanation or grounds for a First Amendment action of some sort.

There were reasons I stayed anonymous here however, that time is long past. Although I can hold a confidence forever, I've never been able to keep a secret for myself for very long. I know about this meet-up because one of the partners in the firm cut the brief out for me when he was reading the morning paper.

In any event , I'm off to the Wood something Cafe on Masonic Street. This should be interesting in any event. Having done a quick check this afternoon, I know at least a few of these bloggers and it will do me good to get out the hood. I haven't been past Faces since I started blogging, maybe even before.

Update to follow later.

More Ethnic Cleansing

This disturbing companion story to the post below, came in from Eric Smith in Japan. Eric sums it up well, so I pass on his words verbatim.

UN: US Complicit in Afghan Slaughter -- 3,000 buried in mass desert graves

Today, American forensic scientists commissioned by the UN have corroborated the suppressed story of how Afghan warlords, under the direction of US Special Forces, murdered 3,000 POW who had been promised amnesty and were trapped in trucks in the desert.

"American special forces ordered the bodies buried before satellite photos could be taken," said an eyewitness.

Mass graves were unearthed in an area of recently disturbed desert soil outside the town of Shebargan, and scientists exhumed 15 bodies, a tiny sample, [they] said, of what is believed to be a very large total.

Watch the original movie here and then ask yourself seriously: "do the ends always justify the means?"

Now before you dismiss this as mere conspiracy theory, the UK Guardian published a corroborating story on Sunday.

Dramatic corroboration of the massacre of Afghan prisoners by the US-backed Northern Alliance at the start of the war in 2001 was last night provided by American pathologists commissioned to investigate the claims by the UN.

A vivid account of the slaughter was provided to The Observer last week by three Britons who were released from the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba more than two years after they were first seized in Afghanistan. They told how they narrowly escaped the massacre before being handed over to American forces and flown to Guantanamo Bay.

Forensic anthropologist William Haglund further confirms the facts of the detainees allegations.

'I uncovered one small corner, exposing 15 remains which were quite complete, and did autopsies on three. There were no signs of trauma and these were all young men. This is consistent with death by asphyxiation.

'I told Dostum's security chief that they had died from suffocation, and there was this big silence hanging over the desert.'

The details about elements of the Tipton Three's story assumed a new importance last week, after the Sun published claims by a US Embassy spokesman, Lee McClenny, that the three had trained at an al-Qaeda camp in 2000. They told The Observer last week that they had all confessed to this accusation only after months of solitary confinement and 200 separate interrogation sessions, only to have it finally disproved by MI5, which brought documents showing they had been in Britain at the time.

After making his claims in the Sun, McClenny refused to answer further questions from journalists, while Lt Col Leon Sumpter, the US spokesman at Guantanamo Bay, said any allegations concerning detainees were highly classified, even after their release: 'I don't know how the Embassy got this,' he said. 'It didn't come from us, and we knew nothing about it.' McClenny's letter was widely criticised as an attempt to nullify the Tipton men's stories of abuse at American hands.

If they all have such damning stories to tell, it's small wonder our government not only doesn't want to release these prisoners but isolates them from any meaningful public contact.
Ethnic Cleansing?

We've received some odd news from Afghanistan this week. Ben Masel forwarded this dispatch from someone on the ground there. Ben doesn't vouch for it's veracity so neither will I, however, we'll be posting a followup piece this afternoon from another source that lends this report some credibility.

Report from the Front:

Dear Phill,

Something awful is happening on the Afg/Pak border... Musharraf has engaged a horrific scorched-Earth pogrom to destroy, kill, rape, demolish, disintegrate all of the tribes that have lived on those ancient lands since the Tower of Babel fell. The men of the larger tribes further in the interior have gotten advance word from desperate, fleeing women and children running from the American-led and equipped Pak troops who are killing every male in their gunsights.

The fleeing natives all telling the same story... "Bush, Bush, Bush."

The Paks are using loudspeakers and couriers to tell the natives that "the American George Bush" has ordered their destruction.

Also... it appears that Aristide is more a factor in Musharraf's pogrom than were the recent assassination attempts on him. Musharraf, as well as a number of teetering leaders currently dependent on U.S. backing were stunned by Bush's refusal to aid Aristide after more than 10 years of American support for his govt. Musharraf and others are well aware that if the flip-flopping Bush can turn his back on Aristide -- a lawfully elected leader of a democracy so close to U.S. shores -- then Bush will easily turn against remote Allies such as Musharraf once he is no longer useful. Our analysts believe that once the war on terror has diminished Musharraf will immediately return to fighting India and testing nukes... the Pak nuke program is in full-swing. Pakistan will return to adversarial status in our eyes. They are now developing 'suitcase' nukes.

With this latest stunt on the border and the needless, merciless killings of innocent natives, Musharraf has all but extinguished the furor over his country's aid in supplying nuclear material to hostiles. But the bad part about all of this is we are now seeing our own troops willing to adopt a scorched-Earth attitude. Some of our kids are starting to think and act like animals. They want to kill and collect body parts as trophies. We saw this happen in 'Nam. History is repeating itself because there is no sane leadership out there in no-man's land to keep our kids sane. God help them, their families and their neighbors when they return home...

D/W Note: The above was rec'd at approx 04:12 PST. De-coding delayed publication. Our apologies.

Disturbing report, if it's true.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Emery Still In the Slammer

This just in from Tim Meehan on Marc's situation. The court has still not set bail in this very serious matter and thus our indefatigable hero languishes in a jail cell at the expense of the government. I am certain the good citizens of Canada are sleeping more soundly tonight in the knowledge that this nefarious trafficker of three cannabis cigarettes is safely behind bars.



Marc Emery is still in custody, on the charge of trafficking less than 3kg of marihuana. When arrested, it is alleged Marc had 2.3 grams (2 joints) in his pocket.

According to Justin McGowan, the Crown prosecutor is arguing that Marc coerced people into joining him to smoke, that he will re-offend, and that he should be held until trial on that basis Marc's partner Cheryl, as well as local activists and a large contingient of local media was present in the courtoom. Marc looked tired, but in good spirits, at many times smiling. The only statement Marc made to the court was after being asked if he would like to sit or stand. His reply: "I've been standing through much of this so far, and I'll continue to stand, thank you."

Marc's duty counsel made it clear to the judge that Marc was not selling cannabis not making any profit, and that everyone participating was a consenting adults. On one occasion, the judge chastised the Crown for implying that underage children were participating, and the Crown reluctantly admitted that all were adults.

During the hearing, the Crown read excerpts from Justin McGowan's arrest statement. The judge was concerned about the Crown's selective use of the statement and will review the entire record overnight. Justin also noticed that there were 3 other people present in court for show cause hearings on cannabis possession at the same time as Marc for unrelated matters.

The judge seemed cautious and didn't express any opinion, but according to Justin was conscious of the number of reporters and the high profile of the case. He didn't seem too happy at the Crown for bringing such a trivial case before him. He has reserved decision and will reconvene tomorrow at 2pm. While an amount of bail was not mentioned, the amount of $2,000 was mentioned.

You can't buy publicity like this. Marc is largely responsible for giving this issue legs in the media. We're sending him a big hug tonight for enduring his currently dismal accommodations in order to keep it standing up front.

Painfully Clear

Paul Krassner has a column up at the New York Press with a disturbing case study of a doctor who was convicted of "the heinous crime of prescribing Tylenol codeine for the treatment of migraine syndrome in a couple of ladies." The "ladies" turned out to be undercover agents for the Medical Board of California who basically set this poor guy up for the bust.

"This story is not unique," [Dr. L] writes. "It is being repeated across the United States every day. Our country seems to be slipping into a fascist regime with dictatorial, uncontrolled, coercive state power."

Over a period of several days, the two women, who were wired, "visited Dr. L’s office, complaining of symptoms that were consistent with migraine headaches." After listening to their history, he gave each of them 30 Tylenol codeine tablets until he could obtain their previous records.

This was a medically appropriate and humane response to the women's complaints. Unfortunately, the DEA thought otherwise.

Some weeks later, agents with drawn guns served a search warrant. They were from the DEA, BNA (a state agency comparable to the DEA) and the local police. ...The raid had a terrible effect on the economic health of Dr. L’s family practice, a standard mix of obstetrics, pediatrics and internal medicine. A story was planted in the local media–via press releases from those government agencies–stating that he was a drug-dealing doctor and would lose his license. He was shunned by colleagues.

"Several weeks later," he writes, "I was arrested at my office while many startled patients watched in utter disbelief as their doctor was handcuffed and led away. The arresting officers would not let me take off my clinic coat or stethoscope–this picture was worth more with them on. I was booked and subsequently released on bail."

The case took six years to come to trial. He was ultimately found guilty. He was sentenced to six months in jail, fined more than $11,000 and required to perform 200 hours of community service. He lost everything and is now in hock for legal fees in excess of $300,000. His family suffered along with him and his patients lost a good and obviously caring doctor.

Former San Francisco district attorney Patrick Hallinan "says that honest doctors all over the country are being targeted by the DEA. "There isn’t any doubt," he added, "that these prosecutions are increasing under the Bush administration. It is like busting a car dealer because somebody runs off the road and kills somebody."

Ironically in the interim, another doctor lost a malpractice case for under-prescribing medication.

Conversely, a California jury recently awarded $1.5 million to the family of an 85-year-old man whose doctor failed to treat him adequately for pain for a few days as he lay dying of lung cancer. That verdict was only the third in American history for the undertreatment of pain, and the first against a doctor. It was also the first time a jury awarded such a verdict under elder abuse laws instead of a medical negligence lawsuit.

We've been talking about this war on doctors for a many months here and our opinion has not changed. Doctors are mandated to treat pain and the DEA should stop meddling in medical protocols.

If there was any real justice in this country, the DEA agents would be on trial for "shooting ducks in a barrel" instead of going out in the world and doing their real job, which should be arresting so-called king pin dealers. Leave the doctors to be policed by their own licensing agencies who are more than equipped to make the judgments as to whether their members are practicing appropriately.
Prince of Pot Pinched Again

Marc Emery was arrested Monday night for sharing a joint, shortly after giving a speech to students at the University of Saskatchewan.

According to eyewitnesses, Emery showed up at a gathering of college students who were hanging out at the Vimy Memorial near Emery's hotel about two hours after the speech.

Emery and about 40 students smoked some "very potent weed," according to eyewitness Justin McGowan.

"About 20 minutes after Marc showed up, three or four cops arrived and said 'We smell marijuana.' They asked if anybody had marijuana and Marc said he had some. They arrested him.

Marc is no stranger to jail cells of course, having been arrested several times on his "Summer of Legalization Tour" last year. This is a little different in that he was charged with possession for holding the joint and trafficking for passing to another person. The possession charges were subsequently dropped but the trafficking stands. One wonders how you could be guilty of one without the other, however the real point is how can they justify a trafficking charge for merely passing a joint.

According to a press release issued yesterday, this is a major flaw in the pending Canadian decrim bill.

Canadians should be reminded that even if Bill C-10, the so-called marijuana decriminalization bill, is passed, police would still retain the criminal power to arrest people and brand them drug dealers -- for simply sharing a joint. "Currently, even simply giving marijuana for no money ("passing a joint") is considered trafficking. Bill [C-10] should be amended so that non-commercial transfers of up to 30 grams of marijuana not be considered trafficking," according to a New Democratic Party statement.

The political motivation behind the arrest seems all too apparent and stands as a testament to Emery's effectiveness as an advocate for legalization.

"According to bystanders, a group of people were peacefully assembled for an hour before Marc Emery showed up," said Tim Meehan, of Toronto-based Ontario Consumers for Safe Access to Recreational Cannabis. "Many questions remain about the circumstances of Emery's arrest. Among them, was he targeted because of the political nature of his speaking tour? Emery has not faced any legal troubles at other speaking stops during his current tour." Emery was the primary target of police action when they arrived on the scene. Along with Emery, local supporter Justin McGowan was also searched, detained, and charged with cannabis possession.

Emery's team is urging his supporters to "inundate Saskatoon police, the Department of Corrections, and media outlets with pro-Emery letters and phone calls that put pressure on the police and convince media to report on Emery's plight." A list of contacts is available here, [scroll to the bottom].

Marc is to appear in court this morning on a show cause hearing. The remainder of his speaking engagements are still on, however noted medical marijuana crusader Grant Krieger will speak in Marc's place on the next date.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


It appears the AARP is trying to redeem itself. I just saw a commercial that was so targeted to the reform audience (read that left leaning 60s liberals) that it made me jump out of my chair to get a closer look. I mean, the image is sock clad feet resting on a coffee table against the backdrop of a old style woodie TV set.

There were cannabis plants filling the rounded corners of the rectangular screen on that set. Being uprooted and taken away. What I found interesting is there was no overt message attached to that. It was swift and neutral.

I think AARP is trying to get our attention and get us to believe they didn't sell their constituency out on the prescription drug legislation. I found the subliminal aspect kind of creepy but I don't think it's entirely negative to have the plant meme planted in the national consciousness.

Still I hope that AARP doesn't think that just because they couldn't fool their elderly members, that they are going to be able to fool the rapidly aging cannabis consuming citizens now. I remember when this organization actually advocated for retired persons rights. That's not true any more.

This is an real example of old line NGOs gone bad. Like GreenPeace and others I won't name at the moment , it's part of the old guard that became seduced by the perks of going along with the system. They all played their part. Some just played out and some sold out but every one contributed to the greater good in some way, even if it was only illusionary.

Or in the words of the inimitable Pete Holiday,

I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
Safe Haven

Here's a timely story in light of our recent discussions on finding refuge in Canada. The author is anonymous but the story is all too familiar. Just as conscientious objectors to the Vietnam war made Canada their home in the 60s, now we have a new brand of refugee - drug defendants. The article details this man's flight but also offers a practical guide on How to Flee to Canada.

The circumstances behind the flight are inevitably sad.

After that final garage sale, after I'd given away treasured possessions I'd had ever since I was a teenager, I sat in an empty house smoking a bowl of White Widow, contemplating the logistics of fleeing my home country, the United States.

In my backpack was a round-trip ticket to Vancouver, Canada, but I had no intention of using the entire ticket. There would be no return flight to the USA for me. Once I arrived in Canada, I was there to stay.

Difficult decisions

My decision to leave America was complex and bittersweet. It had its genesis in 1998, when I was arrested for growing 28 medical marijuana plants in an indoor grow room at my home.

I'd had sports injuries and surgeries that caused severe pain; marijuana was my best medicine, and I grew it because I could not afford to buy it. Yet even though I lived in California and helped Dennis Peron pass Proposition 215 – the first voter-approved medical cannabis legalization law in the US – I learned during my arrest that American police were a law unto themselves. I found out that the drug war was a real war, and that people like me, even though I had a medical marijuana recommendation from a doctor, could too easily become casualties.

For those who feel they have no choice but to follow in this guy's footsteps there is help.

Two informal organizations have formed to help these reefer refugees. One, based in Toronto, is called the deGaulle Project, named after French General Charles deGaulle who fled France for the safety of England during World War II, returning after the war to help rebuild his country.

Cannabis Culture publisher Marc Emery and activist David Malmo-Levine have also set up a website, called "The Underground Railroad," that offers information for Americans who wanted to flee north.

"We aren't smuggling people across the border," Malmo-Levine explained, "but we are providing information that helps people understand how to get into Canada and stay in."

Marc and David also dispense practical advice on how to deal with leaving your old life behind.

There was talk of "safe houses" and how much money and identification to bring with me when I made the trip north. Malmo-Levine advised me to work through the financial, logistical and emotional issues related to leaving my home country, before I left.

"Once you come over, it's not likely you can get back," he counseled. "You will probably be leaving family and friends behind, as well as assets. You have to be ready to start a new life. Make sure you can handle it. We've had too many cases of Americans coming here and then falling apart because of homesickness and the difficulty of being a pot refugee."

Even if you're not thinking of making Canada your refuge, the article is an interesting read. It goes on to tell the stories of pot refugees that are making it work on the "other side".

[Thanks to Vigilius Haufniensis for the link]
Strike Up the Band

It was great to talk to my Dad and my other mother although I'm always astonished to find out how old they are. It's not like I don't know, I just always envision my dad as being a young man and since I don't get to see them much, it's easy to maintain the image.

We had a thorny moment when we started discussing politics. My Dad and I are so alike in so many ways, but our politics could not be more different. Otherwise we had a lot to catch up on. He always says I love you honey, at the end of conversation now.

My father's a kind of macho guy, a man's man, and was never prone to show his emotions. I still remember the first time we said it out loud on the telephone. I was thirty years old. It was a big step in our relationship. To this day, hearing the words come so easily now, is like comfort food for the soul.

Meanwhile, the inbox is groaning with drug war news but I'm running so late this morning that I only time to post this link to this cute little site I ran across this week. This page of virtual instruments amused me for a while. Those of you with musical talent could probably even make some real music. For myself, I thought the balafon and the cimbalon were especially fun to play.


Monday, March 22, 2004
Did They Listen, Nooooooo...

It's my Dad's birthday so I expect to be on the phone for a long time tonight and I may not post more than this op-ed from 1999 that my friend and neighbor unearthed today. He wrote it in response to an editorial in the The Amarillo (TX) Globe-News.

The Globe-News criticized Gary Johnson, who was governor of New Mexico at the time, for daring to suggest legalization and regulation was a better solution to the war on drugs than the policies that still being employed today. The original editorial is archived here.

Bob's response is not archived, so I post it in full. Considering Amarillo just paid five million dollars out of their own municipal coffers to settle the Tulia case, his words still cut to the chase.

3 November 1999
The Amarillo Globe-News

Johnson has the right to speak

by Robert Merkin

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Your Oct. 20 editorial, "Law enforcement 'drug' into Johnson mess," isn't about drugs, drug laws, drug policy or law enforcement. It's a demand by an American newspaper that an American citizen and elected official be silenced.

Ten years ago, nobody minded when the occasional hippie on a San Francisco sidewalk said, "Legalize it." No one in mainstream political power recognized the slightest obligation to respond.

Five years ago, it was still possible to ignore an increasing number of former public officials and ivory-tower academics, like Joseph D. McNamara, former police chief of San Jose, Calif., and Kansas City, Mo.; former Secretary of State George Shultz; and Nobel economist Milton Friedman when they wrote "Legalize it" in obscure journals.

Even their credentials weren't enough to lure mainstream politicians and policy-makers into a public debate.

Baltimore Mayor and Rhodes scholar Kurt Schmoke's challenge to national drug policy was also marginalized. He is, after all, the African-American mayor of an inner city, and national drug policy is an overwhelmingly Caucasian invention of the suburbs.

We now have two elected governors calling for fundamental debate about the war on drugs. One belongs to a third party and became famous as a professional wrestler, in the tradition of Gorgeous George -- he's easy to marginalize.

New Mexico's governor, however, is a Caucasian Republican, straight-arrow triathlete and self-made financial success. His public critiques of the war on drugs have triggered all the alarm bells. Prison construction companies, private prison corporations, prison guard unions, prosecutors and police should be screaming bloody murder. Under current national drug policy, they're all guaranteed careers, financial security, enormous profit, and growing political power forever.

A true, open national debate threatens the keystone of the war on drugs: the mass imprisonment and disenfranchisement of annually increasing numbers of mostly non-white Americans.

But an American newspaper should be ashamed to demand that Gov. Gary Johnson be silenced. Its editorials should debate the truth and wisdom of what he really says, but applaud and celebrate Johnson's right to use his experience, as a young man and as a successful politician and public official, to speak his mind.

His right to speak out is precisely the Amarillo Globe-News' right to speak out: the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

If you succeed in stifling Gov. Johnson's freedom of speech, your "success" will surely come back to haunt you.

They should have listened to him then.

Cyber Warfare Too Hard to Handle

Well if this isn't the height of hypocrisy. Our government is spending 40 billion dollars of your tax money annually on the War on Some Drugs and the DEA says the internet is making drug dealers too difficult to catch.

Messages in Internet chat rooms, where drug smugglers in Latin America can arrange cocaine deliveries in London or Berlin, are almost impossible to intercept and cellular phone text messages cannot be tracked by authorities, Mark Malcolm, intelligence analyst at the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, told an international drug conference in Lima.

"We are at a great disadvantage because we cannot intercept text messages or instant messaging. The only real possibility is by using undercover officers, who put their lives at risk," Malcolm told delegates.

Isn't that their ridiculous job or is it just that the undercover agents prefer the safer targets like bong makers and medical marijuana patients? God knows they are unlikely to shoot back when wrongfully arrested.

And here's a dangerous sentiment. Is it me, or does this look like the build up to further unconstitutional surveillance and requests for more funding?

Cocaine smuggling to Europe is on the rise as cartels find new ways to evade authorities, shipping drugs via Africa, according to European anti-drug officials. Latin American authorities also concede they are no closer to beating the drug trade because of a lack of resources and intelligence.

"As wireless technology develops there are now a multitude of avenues to surf the Internet anonymously and our attempts at surveillance are tenuous at best," he said.

Many Latin American cartels use free electronic mail services to communicate with drug ring members around the world and hook up illegally to wireless Internet routers in cities to avoid being tracked to a land-based server, Malcolm said.

And this chilling remark sounds like a veiled threat to me.

Malcolm said the DEA needed governments around the world to work more closely to track and intercept traffickers, because the U.S. drug agency "cannot do the job alone."

It's absurd to suggest these can't be tracked. I read in the last few months about a man who was caught hijacking wireless service while driving around in his car, in order that he could download kiddy porn. In light of the DEA routinely setting up field offices in foreign countries, the recent interrogation of Haitian refugee Oriel Jean in the absence of his attorney, and their meddling in Ghana just to name a few instances, their protestations sound rather disingenuous to me.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy

In 1987 John Kerry chaired three days of subcommittee hearings on drug trafficking.

...the panel heard evidence of official corruption in Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. The next year, the government published the transcripts in a 4-volume set that has remained a touchstone for anyone interested in narco-corruption, particularly as it involves US intelligence agencies.

Thanks to Russ Kick at The Memory Hole, they are now available on line. Russ obtained the entire four volume series by sheer luck.

The trouble is, this 1,800-page goldmine of information has been incredibly hard to find. The Memory Hole's copy was given to me by a friend of the family; Lorenzo Hagerty; who told me an interesting story. As soon as the Kerry Report was published in 1988, Lorenzo ordered a copy from the Government Printing Office. When it arrived, he began reading it and realized how important it was. He immediately called the GPO to order another set. He was told that the report was already out of print and would not be published again. It had been available to the public for one single week.

The Memory Hole will be posting the transcripts in their entirety, 20 pages at a time. Part One is available now at the site. The front page and the email updates will contain notifications when new portions are posted.

Russ has also posted a link to another volume published in 1988, that was based on the same hearings. It's available in PDF format here.

It's quite fascinating. Here's an excerpt from the page one.

I think all of us know that the effort to stem the illicit flow of drugs into the United States has become an insurmountable problem.

Law enforcement officials across our country and elsewhere have become increasingly frustrated over the seeming inability to be able to stop the flow of drugs or to deal effectively with what is essentially a war that is being waged against the citizens of this country.

From page two:

Among the issues which we want to address in these hearings is not only our own policy but the extent to which our Government ranks the drug problem in the overall scheme of a relationship with other countries. Do we on any occasion overlook a drug law enforcement problem that develops in our relationship with a foreign government in order to protect perceived national or international security or political concerns?

If so, what are the political and national security objectives, which take precedence over the responsibility to our citizens to stop the flow of drugs. This subcommittee will also attempt to evaluate the impact of the drug industry on countries where narcotics have become an integral part of their economies. Only by doing that can we make judgments about what our relationship with those countries ought to be.

Are we facing a situation where the economies of some countries are becoming reliant on revenues generated by narcotics trafficking? Are the actions of drug traffickers increasingly destabilizing the institutions of those countries which succumb to the temptation to permit traffickers to operate in them? Is drug money being used to support political parties, incumbent governments, or even revolutionary movements?

Hours of reading pleasure here.
Peruvian Coca Growers

I'm off to do errands but first this announcement from Encod:

Dear friends,

This afternoon we will send out a press release for the launch of springtime campaign, including a short impression from the CND Meeting in Vienna. Thanks for sending that further to your press contacts.

Herewith I would like to pass on a message from an association of Peruvian coca growers who organised an event in Cuzco the beginning of this month. The message is from Genaro Cahuana, secretary of the Peasants' federation of La Convención y Lares, in southern Peru, who asked me to let you all know the following."

The event was assisted by 500 peasant representatives from the entire region. The purpose was to unite coca leaf producers and consumers to discuss common strategies to face the increasing threat of erradication operations by Peruvian government backed by the United States.

It was decided to organise a campaign to defend the right to produce and consume coca leaves, propose industrialisation of coca leaves into benefitial products as a potential option for development, and increase collaboration with other coca leaf producers in Colombia and Bolivia."

I can add that ENCOD is involved in efforts to facilitate the import of traditional coca leaf products in Europe. If people are interested in how to support these efforts, please let me know.

Lange Lozanastraat 14
2018 Antwerpen
Tel. 00 32 (0)3 237 7436
Fax. 00 32 (0)3 237 0225

Lazy Sunday

I got up with the best of intentions but as usual, got lost in cyberspace. I spent the morning exploring the blogs hosting the Carnival of the Vanities in the next few weeks and then for balance, some unrelated left wing ones I've been meaning to read. I discovered two things. First, there's a lot of right wing bloggers who actually post intelligent and well reasoned commentary instead of harping on some inconsequential point. Second, fully half the of the population of the blogosphere appears to be 28 years old. A lot of smart kids out there.

Meanwhile, a week from tomorrow, Last One Speaks will have been posting for a year. It started as an open letter to my family, just an online diary where they could check on me. I had three daily readers. It evolved over the weeks into an open conversation with a goal to spread one meme - Cannabis consumers are not criminals. It's become a lifestyle choice. If I'm not blogging, I'm thinking about content.

On New Year's Day we had 2000 hits. Last Thursday we broke 10,000. Our focus has grown to include First Amendment issues, and the odd political commentary but this little milestone felt like a good time to reiterate the meme - cannabis consumers are good citizens who contribute to their communities and consumption of a plant with a 5000 year old history of beneficial use, should not be a criminal act.

And by the way, thanks for listening.

Saturday, March 20, 2004
Conspiracy Theory

I've stayed away from the Haiti story even though there were a lot of drug war implications because the subject has been so well covered. However, this one little vignette has been sticking in my craw all week and it seems to me to have been under-reported.

The initial arrest of Aristide's security chief Oriel Jean at his Toronto immigration hearing on a warrant from the US DEA, was well covered by the Canadian press.

Jean, who was arrested at Pearson airport last Wednesday with his wife Bettina for his alleged involvement in war crimes and drug trafficking, is now in the hands of the Mounties. He is to appear in the Superior Court of Justice this morning on the extradition matter.

Joe Kilmer, a spokesperson in the Miami office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said Jean is being charged with a single count of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States relating to activities that took place from 1999 to 2003.

"Mr. Jean has been provisionally arrested at the request of the U.S. authorities under the Extradition Act," said Canadian justice spokesperson Patrick Charette. "He is wanted in the U.S. for drug-related charges, conspiracy to import cocaine."

Excuse me, but since when does Canada - haven for hundreds of Vietnam War era conscientious objectors - extradite political refugees? And a single count of conspiracy? The conspiracy ploy is the single most bogus charge ever invented by prohibitionists. So do you suppose they browbeat some hapless Haitian into making a statement against him? Even if the statement is false it could take the length of his potential sentence to prove it.

Jean's lawyer, Guidy Mamann, who learned that Jean had been taken out of his segregated cell and interviewed by a Drug Enforcement Administration officer twice without the presence of a lawyer said, "The presence of the D.E.A. officer over the weekend and the fact that we were denied access to our client for two solid days, something stinks."

The Canadian justice department held Jean under provisional arrest, which allows officials to hold him for 60 days while U.S. authorities submit their formal request for extradition. However, according to a report in today's Jamaica Observer, it didn't take that long. Oriel Jean has now been extradited from Toronto.

Jean's Toronto lawyer, Guidy Mamman, confirmed to AFP that Jean had been sent to the United States, but declined to comment further.

US authorities in Miami were expected to take on Jean's case.

...Mamman said on Monday that his client had once been asked by the US Drug Enforcement Administration to provide details on known drug traffickers.

He was warned he could be arrested and sent the United States to face charges if he refused, Mamman said. The US arrest warrant issued this week charged Jean with conspiracy and trafficking in cocaine.

We have seen no coverage of this story in the US press. Now that Mr. Jean is in this country, we think someone should be watching this story before this poor man gets 'disappeared' by our government agents.

[link thanks to Tim Meehan]
Pull the plug on drug tests

They say great minds think alike, so I love it when the big players speak the same way I do, even when they are so much more articulate. The UPI's Outside View, posted this excellent op-ed by Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation in Washington. He says it all on the folly of student drug testing.

Despite the [Bush] administration's claim that mandatory drug testing curbs adolescent drug use, a recent federal study of 76,000 students by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research paints a far different picture.

According to the study's findings, published in the Journal of School Health, there is no difference in the level of illegal drug use between students in schools that test for drugs and those in schools that do not.

...Despite this poor performance, approximately 20 percent of U.S. secondary schools carry out some form of drug testing among their student populations. If the Bush administration has its way, this percentage will rise dramatically in coming years. But Congress and school administrators would be better advised to abandon the policy all together.

He notes well that the policy is not only absurdly expensive but also discourages students from participating in extra-curricular activities that would do far more to deter drug abuse.

"Without such engagement in healthy activities, adolescents are more likely to drop out of school, become pregnant, join gangs, pursue substance abuse and engage in other risky behaviors."

But the bottom line is no one should be treated with such disrespect, especially our children.

Suspicionless student drug testing is a humiliating, invasive practice that runs contrary the principles of due process. It compels teens to submit evidence against themselves and to forfeit their privacy rights as a necessary requirement for attending school. Rather than presuming our school children innocent of illicit activity -- as statistically, the overwhelming majority of them are -- until proven guilty, this policy presumes them guilty until they prove themselves innocent. Is this truly the message the Bush administration wishes to send to America's young people?

It's sure not the message I want to send.

[Link via Talk Left]