Saturday, December 31, 2005

Been a long time coming...

Exactly a year ago, I was alone in a hotel room in Newburgh, NY. More exactly, I was soaking in the unexpectedly incredibly great bathtub in my room, drinking a bottle of Moet White Star and shaving my legs, just in case I got into a terrible auto accident on the drive I would be embarking on in the morning. Hey, I had to get through the NY and the NJ turnpikes the next day, it's always a possibility. I wore my best underwear for the same reason. When I grew up that was one of the cardinal rules of good hygiene. They used to say, would you want to have to go to the hospital in ratty underwear? Not me.

I left half the bottle for the housekeeper in the morning and nobody saw my undies, fortunately because of an accident and unfortunately for any other reason. It's hard to believe it's been a year since I said goodbye to the Happy Valley. Actually I never really said goodbye. I left so suddenly that I was tying up loose ends at the law firm until the last 24 hours and left in a rush to get here in time to start this new gig. It's been a singularly solitary life since then and my underwear has remained unseen for any reason, good or bad.

I end the year with a sense of quietude, knowing I made a difficult, but the right choice. But without all of you who come here to my cybercorner of the world to visit, it would have been a much lonelier time. Thanks for the camaraderie and I wish you all a peaceful and prosperous new year.

Deer in the headlights

As I was leaving the family's hood tonight, I saw a deer in the road. It wasn't a baby but it was young. It was just dusk so I saw it long before I made the turn. When I turned the corner, the headlights spooked it into the brush on the side of the road. It looked to me like he was limping and he just stayed at the edge of the remaining bit of woods between the houses. I stopped the car in the middle of the road and rolled the down the window and talked to him, like I might a puppy. He stood and listened to me for a good couple of minutes. I thought he might really be hurt if he was that docile but when I rolled to the side of the road to put to get out and check, he bounded off and looked okay.

The homestead is on former farmland. I can't help but feel a little sorry for the critters that get displaced by the houses.

Hey there cowboy - Howard goes to Washington

Our pal Howard Wooldridge checks in with a year end update. He's now officially moved just outside of DC and will be lobbying Congress on drug policy reform for the foreseeable future. He's started a newsletter. Here's a couple of entries.

Capitol Newsletter: December 30, 2005

Fun Story of the Week: Meeting with a Congressional staffer on Tuesday, I came to realize I was not in Kansas anymore. This man was sympathetic with LEAP’s position but he said I just did not understand how Washington works. “It is all about pork.” He said. “Take your idea of treatment instead of jail. How does that help my district? You need to propose that the federal government build a regional treatment center in our district. That would definitely help you get such a bill passed. Your ideas would lay off thousands of high-paying, federal prison guard jobs. You have to replace those lost federal paychecks with other paychecks or you won’t go anywhere in this town.” I lost it and just started laughing. I am so naïve but this cowboy is learning the ropes.

From last week:

FUN STORY OF THE WEEK: As many of you know, I have been working on ending drug prohibition for 8 years and with over 14,000 persons asking me why, I thought I had heard all the reasons why not. A Congressional staffer had a new one. His reason for opposing ending prohibition? ‘If we legalize marijuana, eventually the growers will want to receive a subsidy to grow it, the same as farmers receive subsidies to grow tobacco, rice, sugar etc. It will just mean one more expense for the federal government.’ Most of you don’t know it but I do have a poker face. I coolly replied, “Well, this is the first day of my second rodeo. Call me naïve but I have faith that the US Congress will never subsidize cannabis farmers.” The staffer remained unconvinced. I went onto another meeting, chuckling all the way down the hall of the Rayburn Building.
You can subscribe to this but I couldn't find where on the website so if you would like to receive these directly, email Howard and he'll put you on the listserv.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Marijuana madness

SF Chronicle also had a great editorial on the drug war yesterday. The money graf:
Republicans in Congress have been scrambling to cut federal spending to reduce a record deficit. Their 2006 Deficit Reduction Act would cut a paltry $40 billion over five years. If they want to find more savings, they should look to dubious spending on the dubious war on drugs -- to the high cost of incarcerating first-time nonviolent drug offenders, of mandating longer sentences for crack cocaine than powder cocaine and of using federal clout to raid medical-marijuana clubs, prosecute offenders and house them in prison. Cut these programs and Washington could move this country closer to what President H. W. Bush announced as his goal, "a kinder, gentler" America.
Not to mention we could save the social programs for poor people that were so mercilessly cut in order to pay for the GOP's tax breaks for the rich.

Joint military exercises can be used for more than drugs

The SF Chronicle has an interesting piece on joint US/Central American military exercises. These are being held under the premise of fighting the war on some drugs but consiering the political climate in the Latin Americas right now, one suspects there's a larger agenda and the US pushed hard to get them to agree to these.
It has not always been easy, said Coast Guard Capt. Stephen Leslie, to bring together nations with histories of border disputes. The Nicaraguans were leery of entering Honduran waters, Leslie said, and Guatemala initially refused to allow entry to Coast Guard boats from Belize.

After months of U.S. pressure, Leslie said, not to mention promises of money for parts and equipment, the countries agreed and held the first joint naval exercises in February and the second in December.
Money talks and the drug war provides a good cover for an administration that would like to overthrow a few of the nearby country's governments - for instance Venezuela and Bolivia. Not to mention the local government gain control their own restive indigenous populations.
Human rights groups, like the Washington Office on Latin America, have criticized the plan to give Central American militaries -- which were responsible for egregious human rights abuses during the region's civil conflicts -- increased law enforcement responsibilities. But leaders of the region's navies dismissed those concerns and said joint military exercises had already begun to pay off.
Yeah, they caught one boat ferrying cocaine while they admit that for every one they get, another three get away. Feeling a bit like shades of Iran-Contra isn't it?

For the birds

I've been trying to get a shot of the birds on the windowsill since I bought the camera. I got a good chance the other day. I had the blinds up and there were a lot of different birds on the ledge and in the bush right outside but everytime I tried to take the shot, they flew away.

Finally, there was one sitting in the bush in exactly the right spot for good shot. He didn't move when I raised the camera. I went to take the picture and - the battery was dead. I haven't had another good chance since I recharged it so all I have is this blurry shot taken through the blinds.

Jailed for carrying flour

Here's the drug war outrage of the day. A freshman college student spent Christmas and an additional three weeks in jail for carrying condoms filled with flour in her suitcase. The condoms were a gag gift assembled by the student and her friends, meant to be a stress reliever not unlike the rubber gag gifts you might find in a mall shop that sells such things.

A field test at the airport allegedly showed that the condoms contained opium, cocaine and possibly amphetamines - a ridiculous combo to begin with. Subsequent tests showed she was telling the truth and it was just flour. If she wasn't recognized by a jail guard who enlisted help for her, she might still be in jail.

This occurred in 2003 and she just filed a suit, which seeks to answer an important question for all innocent travelers - why was the field so wrong? One might note the young lady in question is Korean.
Ellen Green-Ceisler, who directed the Police Department's Office of Integrity and Accountability from 1997 to 2005, called Lee's case highly unusual. Field tests are rarely wrong.

"I've looked at thousands of these cases, and in the context of trained narcotics officers, it almost never happens," she said. "The whole issue will come down to the field test. Was the officer trained? Was the test contaminated?"
Almost never wrong doesn't cut it in my book. It makes you wonder how many other innocent people have suffered from flawed results.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hit and run

They came and took the stump while I was home the other day. I heard it outside the window. It happened so fast, by the time I got my camera I could only get a shot of the bulldozer before they drove off. I was still in my pajama bottoms.

I couldn't hear what they said to each other but they never said a word to me, even as I was snapping away.

Hit and Run

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Blog hop

I've been woefully remiss in my reading and haven't done a blog check in a couple of weeks anyway so a quick review. Loretta Nall has a great year end review and a lot of other good items we missed, the most recent being a new campaign by Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, the group that successfully passed the marijuana initiative in Denver. They are now trying to replicate that success on a statewide level. We of course wish them luck.

She also has news of a tentative settlement in the Goose Creek high school raid with the students receiving between $2,000 and $5,000 each for having had their civil rights violated. I think the town got off cheap. I wish it had been ten times as much so other towns would think twice before they teach their kids the lesson that they are not trusted and they are subject to humiliating searches at any time. No wonder kids are maladjusted these days.

If for some reason you haven't been to Drug WarRant, go there now and just keep scrolling for more on Morales and don't miss his post on the Bush secret surveillance story. He ties it to the drug war way better than I could.

At Flex Your Rights, Scott takes a civil libertian view of the spying scandal and gets quote of the day with this. "If the prospect of courts actually upholding these wiretaps doesn’t scare you, consider the possibility that this NSA controversy might not be the only story The New York Times has put on ice."

Scroll down for Steve's post on my pal John Gilmore and his impending legal challenge to the government's ID requirement in order to travel domestically. And lest you think this is a frivolous lawsuit, keep in mind that he's not challenging it just because it's a rule he doesn't like. He's challenging because it's a secret rule that the government will not produce.

It's an important point. How can you violate a rule you couldn't possibly know about? In fact how can a so called free country have secret laws at all? We'll be rooting for him.

And kaptinemo and I are having an interesting conversation at this post. The Kapt as always has some incisive insights. Please feel free to join in.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Frist protects pharma corps from the public

My post on this is at The Detroit News blog. Rather ironic that our government spends billions to "protect" us from the dangers of illegal drugs but feels the need to protect the corporate producers of legal drugs from having to answer to us if their sanctioned drugs turn out not to be safe.

Dutch wrestle with cannabis policy

They're resurrecting this silly scheme in Holland again, trying to ban foreigners from patronizing the Dutch cannabis cafes. The residents complain about too many outsiders causing problems in the town but tracing the root of the problem leads to a simple solution.

The crime element is being drawn into the equation since they cracked down on the growers. Like so many "decrim" measures, it's legal to use small amounts of "soft drugs" but it's illegal to produce the plants. Thus, as is currently happening in Canada, organized crime has taken over the production end and they care about profits, not the plant as the old-time growers did. Actually it's not unlike what happened here in the US. In the 60s when marijuana was more or less ignored, you never heard of violence connected with the trade. The only people in it were people who loved the herb. Once the honest people were forced out by draconian penalities, the only ones willing to take the risk are the criminal profiteer class.

In Maastricht, a border town, their consumer base is undeniably tourists, mostly from other European countries. They're floundering a bit about the solution. On the one hand they want to ban so called drug tourism, but on the other they're trying to accomodate it by moving the cafes out of the center of town and near the highway exits. They also toy with idea of legalizing the producers on a limited scale. Of course if they succeed on the first count, the cafes across the country will ban foreign patrons and the second two will be moot.

You have to wonder if they've thought this through. Do they really think that without the cafes, that people will still come to Holland just for the museums and the red light districts? I tend to doubt it - at least not more than once. It seems to me, they're burning down the barn to kill a fly. I wonder if they've considered the impact to their economy if the ban succeeds?

GAO report calls drug czar a liar

A good article in the St. Pete Times on the GAO report criticizing the spurious claims of our drug czar claining the billions of tax dollars pouring into the war on some drugs are having a effect on availability. You'll recall that Walters pulled a report out of his hat recently alleging the price of cocaine was up and purity was down because of their poisoned earth eradication programs in South America. However, the czar's report is suspect.

Walsh and others accuse the drug czar's office of putting an overly favorable spin on the fuzzy data, as well as ignoring less positive news.

The drug czar's office sat on a November 2004 report it commissioned by the Rand Corp., a California-based nonprofit research organization, which found that drugs were more available than ever and that prices had in fact fallen. The drug czar's office turned around and commissioned a second report from the Virginia-based Institute for Defense Analyses, which found prices were rising.
The Rand report was well documented and peer reviewed. The IDA was thrown together quickly and the wide difference in its findings is not adequately explained. That won't stop the drug czar and the rest of the professional prohibitionists from using it of course. They have a lot to protect. Heck, there are thousands of government agents who depend on the prohibition for their livelihood and the GAO found they operate with almost no accountability.
Data to assess whether operations ... contribute to ... disrupting the illicit drug market or the overall goal of reducing the rate of drug usage in the United States are problematic," the report found.

Little effort is being made to evaluate performance of the 50 to 60 agencies involved, in violation of a federal law that requires them to be accountable, the GAO added.
The GAO calls the official stats so sketchy and unreliable as to be almost worthless. You can sure that won't stop the czar and his minions from citing it repeatedly and unfortunately since too few Americans will see the GAO report, they'll likely get away with it.

The full report is here.

Monday, December 26, 2005

What will Evo do?

I've been slacking off on the drug war during the holidays so let's talk about Boliva. Cocalero Evo Morales was just elected by a strong majority in a democratic election although you wouldn't know it to hear the Bush administration talk about it. They don't like him.

He was elected on a platform to legalize the coca plant and preventing foreign takeovers of Boliva's resources through the "free trade" scam currently being peddled by the White House. Bush seeks to tar Morales with the same false impression they spin around Venezuela's Chavez.
[A] major concern, say US officials, is the relationship between Mr. Morales and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. "The administration has found mounting evidence that Venezuela is actively using its oil wealth to destabilize its democratic neighbors in the Americas by funding anti-democratic groups in Bolivia, Ecuador, and elsewhere," wrote acting Assistant Secretary of State Matt Reynolds earlier this year.
That's White House hogwash. Chavez was democratically elected twice by a great majority of his people as well and it's the Bush administration that has tried to destabilize Venezuela and the rest of the Americas, first by sponsoring a coup against Chavez, and then by underwriting his opponents, who happen to be the wealthy 20% of that country. Kind of like Latin Bush Rangers in reverse.

Both Chavez and now Morales work for the common man and the common good. They're both indigenous people, not the Caucasian based natives that form the ruling class in these countries. It's true Chavez can be a little extreme and leans towards socialism but his policies have benefited the working class and the poor. One expects Morales will do the same and will be just as tough on foreign corporate exploitation.

One also expects Evo to make a big dent in the war on some drugs. After all he started in politics as the head of the largest union of coca growers in Bolivia's Chapare region. I have great hopes that he will be able to legalize the leaf for the indigenous people, who use it out of tradition and necessity, and in the process create a successful model for plant legalization in general. He will at least will keep the mighty US sponsored eradication planes out of his country and thus spare a few hectares of the planet from the prohibitionist's poisons.

There's reason to hope. Evo hopes to create a world market for coca products and there's many non-drug related commercial uses for the plant, from toothpaste to nutritional supplements. Like agricultural hemp, the coca leaf is a rich source of essential nutrients. And we need more world leaders willing to make a statement like this.
"Coca is not cocaine," Morales said. "The producer of coca leaf is not a drug trafficker and the consumer is not an addict, this must be clear."
It's clear to many. It's only those who profit from the prohibition would refuse to see the truth.

Koufax Time

And now for a little shameless self-promotion. It's time for the Koufax Awards again. I don't stand a chance with all the great bloggers already nominated but if you feel like dropping Last One Speaks into the mix, you can cut and paste this into the comments here:

Most deserving of wider recognition: Last One Speaks

If the thread closes, you can email it directly here.

It's a wrap

I hope everyone had a good Christmas or Hannukah or whatever you might celebrate. It was a quiet day at the LOS HQ. I spent a couple of hours with the family but booked out before dinner. They were wiped out from their trip and I like to give them time alone with the tyke. I spend so much time with him that I feel guilty when he plays with me while they're home. They get way too little time with him as it is.

He was a little overwhelmed with all the presents but I thought it was very sweet that he took the time to actually look at all the books as he opened them. The kid has loved books since he was an infant. The biggest hit though was the Bob the Builder stuff. I think his fascination with "go-gos" must stem from all the construction going on in this development. When we take our walk, he's most thrilled when the backhoe is working and it often is. They've built about fourteen more houses since we've been there and they sell new lots every week.

For myself, my big gift was a great new winter jacket that I really needed but my funniest present was this calendar. It's been many years since I've seen buds like that. Thanks Michael. It's perfect for my office.

Update: More thoughts at The Impolitic.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

You say this is Christmas

Well I am really done now except for the wrapping which is minimal. I'm not going to do anything fancy for the tyke. At his age it's the ripping off the paper that's fun so I just got stick on bows and I'm not even going to do labels. The tea arrived and was waiting on the doorstep when the family returned from their trip to the Polar Express train and thank the Goddess they sent the right one. I had this horrible vision of multiple cans of the wrong product. A big thanks again to the fine folks at Stop & Shop for obviously going out of their way to make this happen.

The trip into town was uneventful, thank the Universe, no stalling. It looks like the car is going to do the same silly thing this year, so I could drive forever as I long as I don't go more than 15 miles away. I picked up all the stuff I needed in any event although I didn't find nice ornaments in town. This little town really needs more stores and a deli.

I did however have a great baseball coversation with a local guy. He was delivering something to the store and he remarked on my Mets jacket. He's from NY and cheers for both the Yankees and the Mets. Me I cheer for the Mets and the Red Sox. I always find baseball conversations challenging with people like him.

I really know jack about baseball. He starts talking about stats and players I don't remember and this year's management which I don't really follow. I just love watching baseball and I cheer for the team. However I've learned to nod wisely and throw in a few gratutious references to '87, Mookie Wilson and Darryl Strawberry and mostly they can't tell the difference. Anyway it was good to have a live adult conversation.

He actually wished me a Merry Christmas but otherwise the spirit of the season was not apparent in the village. I don't know if it's always like this in the South, but I tend to think it's the economy.

Meanwhile, it's a gorgeous afternoon out, the wind is dying down and it's going to rain tonight so I need get out and take another stab at burning leaves.

In the interim, I leave you this piece of useless gossip. Young Hollywood star, Brad Renfro was arrested during a Skid Row sting in Manhattan for buying heroin. Fortunately he still qualifies for treatment instead of prison time and he apparently needs it. He admits he's an addict.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Glad that's over

I made a successfull trip to the mall. I guess it was worth it since I found a much better bottle of olive oil than they had listed on the net. The selection wasn't great but I snagged one of the last two of an estate bottled from Tuscany. I ended up buying the same vinegar I would have on line though. That was really the only good choice. Gotta love the south. This store had a third of its copious aisles devoted to candy and other sweets but only two Italian vinegars. It's times like these I miss being able to walk up to the Coffee Gallery in Noho and pick out something great.

Nonetheless, I'm not unhappy with the vinegar I got. It's sufficiently aged and it comes in a cute little round bottle that looks sort of like a Christmas ornament and they actually had a good selection of Italian pastas so I was able to add a festive fusilli bucati from Abruzzi to the gift.

It was a long checkout line and the clerks were kind of goofy from exhaustion I think. Two kids to a register so they weren't so harried but one of mine managed to knock down some ceramic thing on the register and break it at my feet. There were two packages of real mistletoe in the crock.

I almost bought one but the stuff is poisonous and I don't want to have it around the tyke so I can't make a kissing ball for the kids with real stuff. Making one for myself doesn't make a lot of sense when I don't get company. I rarely go out so I've barely met a soul here. I certainly don't know anyone well enough to invite them over. It seems a bit unlikely anyone will be kissing me this year. But I digress.

Didn't work out so well with the ornaments. The ones in the Southern Season were just awful and they didn't have any angels. I walked the whole blessed mall but ended up buying them in the freaking Hallmark store. It was still okay I guess. I'm not thrilled with the mass produced angel, but it's not so bad, at least it's ceramic and I got a little Pooh flying away with balloons along with a Tigger flying away with Piglet for the tyke. The theme will work even though I don't love resin ornaments. I'd like something a bit more unique for our first Christmas together here. I'll try in the one gift store in town tomorrow. Or the art gallery may have something. Besides, I'd like a bottle of good Porto for the holiday and the wine shop is the best in the Triangle.

That is if my car still works. It's doing the stupid stalling thing again, where it dies while I'm driving down the road. It seems to happen when the car is hot and I'm going slow. I've heard this car is notorious for starting problems and I guess it's true. It was almost exactly a year ago when it developed the same disorder. One hopes that it will stay true to form and let me drive it for 20 minutes or less around town without stalling until after the holidays. Then I'll bring it up to that guy that fixed it the last time I guess.

I have to make a serious decision on whether to fix it or get another car though. I can't really afford another car but in a way I can't afford not to get one. The old Ford is 11 years old now. But I hate buying a new car or rather I hate shopping for one. I'm not so good at major life choices.

Making a list...

Well the Christmas shopping is not quite done. I very cleverly managed to do most of the shopping on line and I scored a major coup for my daughter's gift. It's ever more difficult to find something meaningful for her as the years go by.

When I left her Dad, I literally fled in the night on the clothes on my back and had to start from scratch. I waited until she left home but I should have thought it out more I suppose, because this meant I couldn't help her through her college years as a good parent should. She effectively put herself through school and is now much more successful than I'll ever hope to be. There's nothing I can get her that she needs that she can't get for herself and there's not much that she really wants that she can't find on her own. Thus my excitement in having the found the perfect gift.

There is a very particular brand of ice tea mix that we can't get here in the south. The only place they distribute it in our stomping grounds up north. After dicking around with the manufacturer to no avail, guess they only want to deal with grocery stores, I finally called the Stop & Shop I used to frequent in Noho and talked them into sending me two cases of the stuff. She'll be able to take a bath in it if she wants to now. (Note to my Happy Valley readers - patronize Stop & Shop, they could not have been more accomodating. They totally rock.)

Meanwhile though it's the last real shopping day left and I still have nothing for the son-in-law and more importantly I don't have an angel. I can't break that tradition after all these years so I'm biting the bullet and heading to the mall. Luckily, we have a very small one story mall fairly close by that only has about a dozen stores in it. I should be able to find what I need there. Having run out of inspiration on the son-in-law's gift I'm going to the specialty food shop and get my usual standby - insanely expensive Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I figure they might have some imported ornaments there as well. I suppose I should start an ornament tradition for the tyke as well. I'm not sure what his theme should be. I'm leaning towards trains or snowmen.

So I took a tranq so I could deal with the rude crowds and I'm off. I'll be back soon I hope.

Hijacked by Bellsouth?

I don't know if you've noticed but my comment section seems to have become a subsidary of the Bellsouth yellow pages. I don't know if Haloscan is allowing it to defray costs or if they just found a way to circumvent the spam killer over there but I'd like to mention, no one is paying me for this!

I suppose I shouldn't complain since I get the Haloscan for free and it's not all that intrusive so far, as long as they keep it short and at the bottom. I haven't clicked on any of the ads myself - I refuse to encourage them but I wonder if anyone has found a nice house on the Raleigh listings? If so maybe I should ask for a commission?

Baby you can drive my car

This new hysteria about drugged drivers really bugs me. I mean get a grip people, marijuana use doesn't cause dangerous driving and in fact cocaine use has been proved to improve driving skills. So when you read something like this...
Bob Rorison, who is now the local president of MADD, was injured in accident by a driver who was high on cocaine and booze.
...take note that alcohol is almost always involved in the accidents attributed to drug use. If the guy wasn't taking cocaine to take the edge off the booze, Rorison might have been dead from that impaired driver.

Alcohol abuse, cell phones, screaming kids, and mobile food consumption cause more accidents. And if they're going to start testing for drug use I suggest they start with prescription drugs which actually do impair performance.

I would much rather be on the road with a bunch of tokers than I would with a bunch of Prozac impaired drivers and I hear that the Ambien that's so popular with politicos can make you pretty spacey if it's abused or if you don't get enough sleep while you're under its influence.

You want to take "drugged drivers" off the road, start there and you'll not only solve the safety issue you won't have to maintain the roads anymore because they will be no one left who's legally allowed to drive.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

DEA continues Operation Grinch blitzkreig

Three days until Christmas and there's nothing on all the stations in my chintzy cable package except the cheesy remake of the Grinch who stole Christmas. I've been watching it off and on. Jim Carrey makes a good Grinch but the I like the original animated version a lot better.

However, the movie makes an appropriate backdrop to the latest atrocity in the DEA's war on sick people. The latest of their mean spirited raids, conducted just in time to ruin Christmas, occurred in San Francisco on Steve and Catherine Smith's Hope Net, said to be a model program providing medical marijuana for free or at greatly reduced cost to over 300 terminally ill patients.

I found it somewhat heartening that the co-op's supporters had formed a rapid response team of sorts and faced down the DEA when they arrived the first time to, if you'll forgive the expression, bust up the joint.

My old friend Ann Harrison reports.
By approximately 12:30 pm at least fifty supporters had arrived surrounding the two DEA pickup trucks where agents sat grim-faced speaking on their cell phones. Activists chanted "DEA out of California" and help up signs for passing cars which honked their support.

A press conference was assembled and San Francisco City Supervisor Chris Daly, who represents HopeNet's south of Market Street district, spoke. Daly pointed out that his district includes most of the medical cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco and noted that supervisors just spent six months crafting a set of dispensary regulations to discourage federal raids. "The outrage that we see here will grow in San Francisco if they don't butt out of the medical cannabis," said Daly.
The DEA agents were forced to skulk away and sneak back later like the thieves they are to conduct their destruction on the warehouse. To their credit, the SF police did not participate in the raid, it was a solo DEA operation.

No arrests were made at the time of the raid although $50,000 and other valuables were seized including of course the plants and some processed marijuana. However, a DEA spokesperson said, charges are likely to filed in the future.

This is the fruit of the poison Raich decision that I think we all expected but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. If these heartless thugs want to play the Grinch, the least they could do is follow the plot and grow a freaking heart during the holidays. It's not like they couldn't have waited until January to steal the medicine out of the hands of dying people. It's so unnecessarily cruel.

Angels he has heard while high....

Via Acidman who sent me to this post, comes my kind of Christmas story.

It seems a family in Florida left their Christmas tree outside for a few days before bringing it in to decorate. When they went to retreive the tree, they found a baby owl had taken up residence in it. Animal control officers rescued the little critter and noticed he smelled kind of funny, in fact he reeked of marijuana.

This being the age of technology, they bloodtested the little guy and discovered he was indeed stoned off his little feathery butt and had developed a big taste for oreos. (Okay I made that last part up).

And like any good Christmas story, there's even an "It's a Wonderful Life" type ending. The bird is fine, having suffered no ill effects from his indulging in Christmas "spirits" and he also "brought an early holiday gift to the sanctuary, which was in need of more than $250,000. The attention the bird has brought has helped ensure the sanctuary's survival."

Have a look at him for yourself. As Acidman said, "Must have been some good shit."

The sanctuary named him Cheech but considering Cheech went straight in his later years, I think they really should have named him Chong.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Let there be light...

I celebrated the solstice outside in the sandbox with the tyke and I have to say I'm feeling better already. Looking at six days off probably has as much to do with it as the turn of the season but it's still been a really long day so I'm just going to post more photos tonight. The above is my sorry excuse for a bonfire. That's as good as it got with the wet leaves but is it me or can you see a face at the bottom of that? I swear this place is haunted.

Meanwhile, the tree people showed up and took away everything but the big stump with the tree bark sculpture on top. I have a feeling that may end up being a lawn ornament until the spring.

On a more festive note, here's the family tree.

It's not very sparkly. We always did a toy tree and for my daughter we bought an angel every year from the year she was born.

This little blonde one at the bottom was the very first one. Amazing isn't it, with all the things that one loses along the way, the funny little things that stay with us?

Ain't nobody's business...

The language was a little prissy but nonetheless, the Canadian Supreme Court rendered an good decision in a favor of the owner of a private swingers club, ruling that the private acts of consenting adults behind a code-locked door, was not a threat to society.
The judges said that just because most Canadians might disapprove of swingers’ clubs, this did not necessarily mean the establishments were socially dangerous.

Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society," said the opinion of the seven-to-two majority, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.
Seems to me they could apply that reasoning to cannabis clubs as well.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In the arms of Morpheus

I don't know what's wrong with me but I can't get enough rest. I literally fell asleep, sitting up in front of the computer last night, woke up when I almost fell off the chair, went to bed and then proceeded to sleep for another 12 hours straight. This on top of the 11 hours I was logging in this weekend. It's true when they say you can get too much sleep. I feel like my head is stuffed full of cotton candy.

I'm hoping it's just my annual malaise over the lack of light and everything will turn around when we hit the equinox and the light starts growing again. It's always helped before. Kind of wish I had gotten a flu shot though, just in case.

Meanwhile, I'm off to work again for the afternoon and I've got a long day tomorrow but then I have a week off so I'll be picking up on the drug war again by then if not sooner. With luck I'll be able to post later today as well when the tyke goes down for his nap - otherwise I'll be back at least briefly tonight. I'm falling way behind at the Detroit News as well and there's a couple of posts up there right now that really need refuting.

In fact if any one has time to help me tear LaPlante a new one over this post in the interim, feel free to jump in at the comment section over there and I'll be sure to point to your comments.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Uribe tells US to butt out

This is interesting. Colombian president Uribe basically told the US government to STFU and stop meddling in his country's business after our Ambassdor publicly offered some unwanted advice on how to run Colombian's upcoming elections.
"The Colombian government does not accept the meddling of foreign governments, even if it is the United States," he said, adding that it is already clear that paramilitary leaders lose benefits if they break the law.

Uribe said Washington should not try to use Plan Colombia, an anti-drug program funded mostly by a $4 billion aid package from Washington, "to put pressure on our country."
Wood mumbled some apology about democracy. More interesting is this AP piece makes mention of the failure of the eradication program.
But Plan Colombia has not produced the results hoped for by either nation. Colombian rebels involved in drug trafficking remain a threat and the price of cocaine is cheaper on American streets than when the program began in 2000.

Some U.S. congressmen argue that because of that, Washington should cut its aid to Colombia, which gets more support from the United States than any country in the hemisphere.
One suspects the Beltway's displeasure is more driven by the Uribe's failure to get onboard the free trade express but nonetheless it's good to see the ill-advised Plan Colombia falling into disfavor.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Disaster averted

So maybe I panicked just a little. It took me all morning to get up the courage to go out and look at it. It wasn't a very big branch and it wasn't wrapped around the hub. One simple cut with the trusty clippers and it's gone.

Thank you God. I found my religion on this one. I prayed before I went out. It would have made a better story if was a real disaster but I wasn't prepared to deal with one.

Tree down

It's not quite as impressive in the daylight as it was in the dark last night but here's my tree. I think it may have had a nest in it. I saw a couple of mockingbirds hopping around in the debris this morning looking pretty agitated about it.

Meanwhile, you have to love how they left this huge mess in the yard but took the time to pile some bark neatly on the stump. I love this place.

Friday, December 16, 2005

A minor disaster - I hope

It was a long 12 hour day and I pull into my driveway to find someone cut down a tree. No one told me they were going to cut down a tree. Hell, I've talked to my landlord three times in a year. It was so long between the first and the second time, I had to look up his name, never mind his phone number. I mean, I've talked to the guy five times total.

I'm not even sure it was Jim who cut it down. The neighbors have been cutting trees in their front yard this week. They've taken down about five now and they might have taken this one too. I guess it's tall enough that it could smash their carport if it went in the wrong direction. And the last time they took down trees, they took away a bigass limb that had fallen in the yard while I was at work. At least I think they did because it disappeared at the same time.

So anyway, there's a tree cut up in big chunks on my lawn. I hope they're going to come take it away but that's not the disaster. That tree was pretty dead and I'm glad it's down. Somebody got killed out here yesterday by a tree that fell on their house in the ice storm, and that one was a candidate for the same fate. That was the good news.

I was so busy checking out the tree while I going down the driveway that I didn't see the branch in the middle of it and when I drove over it, it got caught up under the car. It's stuck firmly around the muffler but that's still not the disaster. The reason it's so stuck is that one end of it seems to be lodged inside the wheel - from the inside, in what looks to me to be the hub. I backed it out of the carport hoping it would dislodge but I couldn't pull it out. As the tyke would say - it's stuck. That I think could be the disaster.

I couldn't deal with it in the dark. I'm hoping if I back up a little more, I'll be able to pull it out in the morning. If I can't - I'm not sure what to do. I guess I'll have to find the name of the guy who replaced my brake lines and see if he will it get it out of there on a Saturday. But I'm not even sure I should drive it. I have this vision of the friction causing the branch to catch fire while I'm going down the road.

What a weird day. I'll get some photos in the morning.

Christmas spirits

I'm still feeling kind of crummy and crawling through the work week but I wanted to post this photo in honor of Acidman's two month anniversary as a sober person. He had been live blogging his near death experiences when he just about killed himself with booze and now he's made a remarkable turn around and is blogging through his recovery.

I'm afraid he might be a little jealous that he doesn't live next door to this, but I figure since he loves cats so much, it will brighten up his day just knowing it exists. And if any of you kind readers want to help a recovering alcoholic make it through the holidays, be sure to send your especially cute cat links here. Tell him Libby sent you.

Merry Christmas Rob. No need to thank me.

For the rest of you who wonder how that wreath came out, the photo just didn't shrink well, so here's a link to the large version of the pix.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Patriot Act stinks up drug policy

Following up on yesterday's post, here's Sen Feingold with the quote of the day, affirming what we've been saying about the Patriot Act.
Let me make one final point about sneak and peek warrants. Don’t be fooled for a minute into believing that this power is needed to investigate terrorism or espionage. It’s not. Section 213 is a criminal provision that could apply in whatever kind of criminal investigation the government has undertaken. In fact, most sneak and peek warrants are issued for drug investigations. So why do I say that they aren’t needed in terrorism investigations? Because FISA also can apply to those investigations. And FISA search warrants are always executed in secret, and never require notice. If you really don’t want to give notice of a search in a terrorism investigation, you can get a FISA warrant. So any argument that limiting the sneak and peek power as we have proposed will interfere with sensitive terrorism investigations is a red herring.
You can say that again. It stinks like old dead fish.

[hat tip to Erin Hildebrandt]

GAO calls drug czar a liar

A 52-page report by the Government Accountability Office, due to be released next week concludes Plan Colombia and related operations in other South American countries, on which $7.4 billion of your tax dollars has been squandered, have failed to appreciably impact the flow of cocaine into the US. This is in direct contradiction to recent statements made by drug czar John Walters.
The GAO report was skeptical of the statistics the government relied on for its upbeat assessments, calling its information on cocaine production and use problematic. It also said the Office of National Drug Control Policy had failed to fully address previous "recommendations for improving illicit drug data collection and analysis."
In other words, the prohibitionists are fudging the numbers to justify their existence. The funding for these dunderheaded programs will be coming up soon in Congress again.
Walters says he is confident the new plan will be accepted by both countries. "We have been clear we intend to continue this policy," he told The Chronicle.

It's about time someone shook the prohib profiteers confidence that they can continue to fleece the taxpayers with this destructive and ineffective program. This is one that really needs to expire. Contact your Congressmen and tell them to defund this debacle.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Need an Act of God to counteract the Patriot

This Patriot Act is a disaster for every activist of any kind that isn't in lockstep with the White House. We've had a bit of a debate over one of the Sections related to dissent at The Impolitic. It doesn't bode well even worse for drug policy reformists but even worse, they've added provisions on "narco-terrorism" and the inane Meth Epidemic Act as amendments. Talk Left has the links to these Sections and other equally depressing and odious provisions.

There's still some slim hope for a filibuster. If you've got religion of any kind, pray that someone will stop them.

Sea of DAMMADDness

Tom Angell at the DARE Diary has been kicking some serious prohibitionist butt this week. Of course taking down this amateur idiot Steven Steiner is a little like shooting fish in a barrel but now that the Mad Dad has got corporate funding, it's good that someone is keeping an eye on him.

Steiner started his silly anti-drug org after his 19 year old son OD'ed on Oxycotin. Ironically, it appears his corporate sponsor is the same drug company that makes Oxy. He also sidelines as a part time hack for the GOP and functions as an official Soros basher for the professional prohibitionists out there. The guy is clearly a narcissistic opportunist callously using his son's death to enrich himself but Tom Angell cuts him down to his puny little size and exposes him for the fraud that he is.

Read the followup post as well where Steiner attempts to fight back. It's so pathetic as to be comical. I suppose I should be insulted. I've dissed the guy myself more than once and he's never even noticed, much less called out his troops against this drug legalizer

As Tom points out, it's somewhat counterproductive for the guy to be sending his readers to DARE Diary since they'll see the truth that counters DAMMMADD's propaganda there. Way to teach 'em Tom.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

December in the south

I only wish this was my bonfire but this was the one my neighbor got going a few days ago. The smoke bomb fire I had going yesterday was too dismal to photograph.

Bonfire of the inanities

I'm back to work so it will be mostly evening blogging until the weekend. Meanwhle, the wreath was a big hit with the family. I got a shot of it today but they have a dark door and the sun never hits it, so I didn't get the detail that I would have liked to. I should have photographed it at home before I brought it over but I'll post the shot anyway later tonight. I don't feel like downloading the stuff at the moment.

I made another stab at the leaves yesterday afternoon. It's been like the Keystone Cops of leaf burning. I can't catch a break between the weather, my schedule and my level of energy. I had all these piles raked up and ready to go but it rained a lot between the time I did that and when I started burning. The leaves in the middle of the piles were quite wet so I could only throw them onto the fire in small batches. It was still a smoky mess. Even worse, it started to sprinkle just when I went out. That's the third time the rain has thwarted my plans. I pressed on this time, thinking I could get at least some of it done but I didn't get that far before it started pouring.

Right before the rain came, the winds kicked up like crazy - right after I had dumped a load on - and sent showers of half burning leaves into the yard. It started catching some of unraked leaves on fire, so I'm out there running around the yard cursing and beating out the fires with a shovel. It was almost a relief when the rain finally came. I wanted to deliver the wreath anyway.

Of course by the time I delivered the wreath and came home again, it was pitch black out but the wind had died again and it had stopped raining altogether. I'm thinking maybe the universe wants those leaves right where they are. Or more likely it's a reminder that I should have been more industrious about it before the light changed. I'll tell you, I can't wait for the winter solstice. It's my favorite day of the year. I know if I make it that far, the light will start to grow again. I loathe living in the dark.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Law enforcement plays the grinch - dispensaries raided

So much for the fed's contention that they don't go after sick people. Thirteen medical marijuana dispensaries were raided today in San Diego.

Gotta love that good old Scrooge spirit. You know this was the result of a long investigation and these busts will make it difficult for registered patients to get their medicine over the holidays. These places operate out in the open and they aren't going anywhere. There's no reason except pure spite that they couldn't have waited to bust them until after the new year.

There's a poll that goes with this article as well. It's winning without us but it doesn't hurt to click over with a few more yes votes.

Meanwhile, Safe Access is organizing a rally.
We are asking all local medical cannabis supporters to rally in opposition to these raids at noon tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13th in front of the San Diego federal building, 880 Front Street, San Diego.
Details available at the site.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]

Kentucky task force targets the elderly and infirm

The latest trend in criminal incarceration in rural Kentucky sees a growing number of senior citizens being arrested for selling their prescribed pain meds to addicts. For instance, "Dottie Neeley, 87, was fingerprinted, photographed and thrown in jail, imprisoned as much by the tubing from her oxygen tank as by the concrete and steel around her."
Since April 2004, Operation UNITE, a Kentucky anti-drug task force crated largely in response to rampant abuse of the powerful and sometimes lethal painkiller OxyContin, has charged more than 40 people 60 or older with selling primarily prescription drugs in the mountains.
Task force head Dan Smoot, defends the practice. "Most of the elderly we arrest are merely continuing a family tradition," he said. "It has been part of their culture for a long time." In other words, he's implying this 87 year old woman is a career criminal and drug kingpin.

The local cop sees it differently.
When a person is on Social Security, drawing $500 a month, and they can sell their pain pills for $10 apiece, they'll take half of them for themselves and sell the other half to pay their electric bills or buy groceries," Floyd County jailer Roger Webb said.
Really. There aren't too many "investor class" Republicans living in the hills of Kentucky and they're the only ones benefiting from this alleged Busheconomic boom in our economy.

The WOsD is a war on poor people. Isn't it time for our law enforcement agents to start investigating serious crimes again?

UMASS appeal for research marijuana is heard

Wow. Talk about your unlikely allies. The WaPo covers today's convening of a DEA administrative court session taking up UMASS researcher Lyle Craker's appeal of the DEA's denial of a license for the cultivation of a new and more reliable source of medical marijuana. The DEA is contesting for all the usual illogical reasons including my favorite, that allowing Craker to grow a few plants will somehow cause the market in recreational marijuana to explode.

However, the big surprise in this piece comes from Grover Norquist, the president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. This is the guy who practically invented crony corruption in DC and is a poster boy for PNAC. I have to guess the economic arguments swayed him.
"The use of controlled substances for legitimate research purposes is well-established, and has yielded a number of miracle medicines widely available to patients and doctors," Norquist wrote. "This case should be no different. It's in the public interest to end the government monopoly on marijuana legal for research."
I'm not expecting much from this. Even if Craker gets a favorable decision, the DEA is not compelled to issue the license. But whatever the results of the hearing, support from a major player like Norquist is big. I almost hope he doesn't go down in the Abramoff scandal.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The great outdoors

I found a great place to walk today. I'm making a wreath for the family. For the first time in my life, I bought the base. It's a really nice balsam wreath on it's own and I could have just decorated it but the tradition is that it should have assorted greens. Easy to find up north, not so easy here. It's different in the mountains but there aren't pine forests here.

It took a while to find a place that still had enough accessible woods but I discovered the neighboorhood where the family almost bought a house has a huge tract of undeveloped land that already has paved roads but no houses. I found an interesting assortment of pines and several different kinds of holly.

It was a little trickier this year. I usually use natural berries but with the tyke, I didn't want to use anything that might drop something that looks tasty but is really poisonous so I'm going with fake berries for the first time as well. In any event the roads are regular rabbit warren of dead ends but I managed to find a way to make a big circle that ended in a clear cut path through the woods that takes you back to the main road. It took me a hour and half with all the stopping. I have this thing about not cutting more than three ends off any one tree so it takes a long time. I think it will make a good forty minute walk on a normal day.

Anyway, I'm feeling more connected to the land here after tramping through the woods for the first time since I've moved here and I'm off to finish this wreath. I'm going to bring the stuff into this room so I can listen to Pandora. Adding the last two artists really helped the mix. I just heard Eric Burden, the Everly Brothers, Bread and now this Dukes of Stratosphear is on. They're new to me but I really do like this cut. The next two are okay, not great. I decided to add William Topley to the playlist. Can't wait to see what happens.

I feel like my whole life has just changed.

Update: So I got involved in the wreath and forgot to post this until I finished with it. I'm happy enough with it. The fake berries look fine. I'll take a picture once we get it up on the door. Meanwhile, adding Topley did the trick. There's been a steady stream of great music. It's playing live Cream right now. Moving on to someone new I like. The Black Keys. Jeez, I love Pandora.

This thing is really fun

Okay, I'm getting giddy over this Pandora thing. This is my ticket back into mainstream music. I didn't even know Ani DiFranco sang. I thought she was a comedian for some reason or maybe the one who did the Vagina tour. Anyway I loved the song. This Mary Black song on right now, not so much. I don't know who she is either. Onto Buffy St. Marie. I like her okay as well but I wonder what happened to Neil Young? I'm ready for a change up here. Ah there he is. Here's a new one I like alright. Alasdair Roberts. Now Weezer. The playlist is getting a little dirgy. I think I'll add a couple more rocking artists and then see what happens. Maybe Chris Isaak and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Yeah, that helped. Jeff Healey Band is good.

It's a little spooky but I'm loving this station. Once you sign up you can create up to 100 different stations.

Opening Pandora's box - free music

Who says there's no Santa Claus? I just got the best present by wandering over to The Living Rockumentary, blog of Henning's School for The Dead, my old pals from the Baystate Hotel era. Brian, the busiest drummer in the Happy Valley, had a post up on the best music website, ever.

The aptly named Pandora has this Music Genome Project that creates a playlist for you. Basically if you hit the listen now button at the top right of the screen, it asks you for a favorite song or artist. It plays that and then chooses other songs and artists based on on that choice.

I put in the Youngbloods, so it's searching for challenging intrumentals with complicated lyrics for me. You can reject the ones you don't like. I've only rejected two so far. And I love not knowing what's coming next. It's like getting a present every 3 to 5 minutes.

It's a little spooky because every time you reject something, it modifies the list to exclude that song and I assume assigns some psychological criteria to your profile. You can also modify the lists in other ways and download music. Brian explains that part here. I suspect it's some government plot to compile a database but I joined anyway. So far the music has been worth it.

I signed up for the free service that says you have to listen to ads, but so far I haven't heard any. You can hear it ad free for three bucks a month. I'm going to wait to see how often I listen to it once the novelty wears off, before I decide. But an hour in, I'm really loving it.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

When asked what he thought of Prohibition, Will Rogers replied: "Well, I guess it's better than no liquor at all."

Hey. Congrats to my pal Robert Merkin who managed to escape Vleeptron long enough to get the letter of the week award for an LTE published in the Ukiah Daily Journal.
No one has been murdered over a wine deal gone sour since 1933. Even the desperately thirsty just go to the neighborhood liquor store, pay less than $10, and get the intoxication they want. The beverages are certified pure, untainted and of precise potency by the government. All disputes over sales turf by alcohol distributors are settled by lawyers in civil court.
Go on, read the whole thing. It's short.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Monk busted in Japan

Thanks to my friend Paul von Hartmann for this tip. A 48 year old Japanese monk was busted for growing a little over 5 lbs. of marijuana. He is alleged to have sold some to an undercover agent, which he denies, although he does admit growing the herb for his own consumption.

Sounds a little trumped up to me since they already had the monk on possession from an earlier bust at his home. Seems likely the cops would have wanted to nail him on something bigger and most Buddhists would give away something like a plant, so it's hard to believe he would take money for it.

Weekly Injustice

Via Drug Sense Weekly, Radley at the Agitator has the latest appalling drug task force bust gone wrong. Here's the gist.
Let's summarize: Cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frigthened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door's been kicked in. Turns out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. He's later convicted and sentenced to death by a white jury. The man has no criminal record, and police rather tellingly changed their story about drugs (rather, traces of drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.

...Maye's case is an outrage. Prentiss, Mississippi clearly violated Maye's civil rights the moment its cops needlessly and recklessly stormed his home in the middle of the night. The state of Mississippi is about to add a perverse twist to that violation by executing Maye for daring to defend himself.
I remind you this would not have happened with a legal market.

"Cartoon Network" busted

Well, I'm pulling myself back together. Ronny would have hated to see me mope around and thanks to everyone who expressed their condolences on his passing. It hurts a lot more than I ever expected but as I like to say, no way out but through, and so I'm jumping back into the fray.

I don't really know what to say about this bust except I'm surprised they lasted as long as they did. It seems like a pretty bold in your face operation to me. But you do have to admire their organization. It was an impressive operation although clearly not well thought out in terms of the ultimate consequences.

Smoking Gun has the story, along with photos. And you really have to read the complaint for yourselves. Fascinating reading and it describes how the operation works. One thing that stood out is the group fielded 50,000 calls in a year, averaging 400 a day. Think about what that says about demand and who do you think is buying this stuff at about $400 an oz? It's not street people - it's the professional class.

More importantly - buyers beware. These idiots kept records. If you're a Cartoon Network subscriber, the feds have your number.

Meanwhile, I think the task force was a bunch of Scrooges for busting them right before the holiday. They waited this long, they could have waited until after the holiday instead of ruining thousands of consumers' Christmases.

[hat tip JackL]

Thursday, December 08, 2005

CBGB's will stay open under new deal

I'm still in a terrible funk today after crying my eyes out last night but here's a bit of good news I found cheering. CBGB's nightclub in New York got a reprieve and will not be kicked out of its present location for at least another year. I never went there myself and I probably never will but it's kind of a holy grail for up and coming musicians and I know many bands who have played the venue - some of whom even got pretty famous later on down the line. I just like knowing it's there.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Didn't want to have to do it

I just got off the phone with Jamie and it was awful to tell him about Ron but I suppose it was best that the news came from me. We were a weird little quasi-family, the three of us, in our day. Ronny was kind of surrogate father to Jamie and I always thought of Ron as a sort of eccentric uncle.

Anyway, although we had drifted apart in the last few, we were very close for many years. It's funny, as I've aged I've had to deal with the death of friends before but this death hurts so much more sharply. I'm so glad I saw him when I was in Noho this summer. I'm sorry now that I didn't spend more time. Oddly, I was just thinking last week that I should try to spend a couple of evenings with him on the next trip. I can hardly comprehend that it's no longer an option.

You never know when you're going to run out of time, do you?

Rest in peace Ronny

I'll have more to say about him later, after the shock wears off but I just found out that my dear friend Ronny Sarazin died suddenly on Monday.

Seattle paves the way for reform

Media Awareness Project archives a good piece reviewing the effects of I-75, the marijuanan decriminalization measure that was passed in 2003 in Seattle.

Largely below the radar, Seattle has moved to the new cutting edge of American social policy on adult drug use.

The most obvious example of this is Initiative 75, passed by a strong majority of Seattle voters in 2003. The measure mandated that arrests of adult marijuana users would become the lowest priority for law enforcement agencies in the city, all but decriminalizing pot smoking in Seattle. It was opposed by drug warriors from U.S. Drug Czar John Walters on down to Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr, but it nevertheless succeeded in radically altering the climate for pot smokers here, and has become the model for subsequent similar measures in Oakland, Denver, and Columbia, Missouri. Add in Seattle's innovative drug court, which allows people convicted of drug crimes to choose treatment over incarceration, and the King County Bar Association's new and groundbreaking blueprint for drug-law reform in Washington State, and this city emerges as something of a demonstration project on drug reform for the rest of the country.
The good news is it's working just as its proponents said it would. Arrests are down thus freeing up law enforcement and the court system for serious crimes and the predicted confusion and spike in teenage pot smoking never occurred as the doomsayers predicted. In fact teenage use declined slightly. Of course that doesn't stop the prohibitionists from continuing to pass on, shall we say, incorrect information.
Faced with this evident lack of I-75-induced cataclysm, Carr now openly admits he was wrong about some of the law's predicted negative impacts. But he is still not any closer to thinking it might have been a good idea. "It's a silly law that was enacted for political purposes," he says. These days he employs a strategy of minimizing the law's positive impact, suggesting it was unnecessary in the first place, and ineffective as a program for social change in the second.
In trying to minimize its impact he stated grossly inaccurate numbers to the press. It's not clear that he corrected the record but all quibbling aside, it's clear the decrim measures work, as other cities - most recently Denver - have followed suit. The momentum is building but the real question is where does reform go from here? These measures are admittedly more symbolic than a practical means of changing the laws.

Enter the Kings County Bar Association, who are taking the lead on ending the WOsD once and for all - for all drugs. They've produced a 100 page document for use by lawmakers. It obviously covers a lot of ground but here's the gist of it.
The report imagines the State of Washington controlling the distribution of currently illegal drugs, with softer drugs like cannabis perhaps being taxed and sold only to citizens who meet certain requirements ( old enough, a resident of Washington, not too intoxicated at time of purchase ), while harder drugs like heroin and crystal meth might only be given out under medical supervision to addicts involved in treatment. It's hardly the Bacchic free-for-all that backers of the status quo imagine when they talk worriedly about decriminalization. In fact, it could end up, in practice, being far more restrictive than the current drug-control regime. The aim would be to reduce crime by drying up the illegal markets for illicit drugs; improve public health by focusing state efforts on treating, rather than imprisoning, addicts; and protect children better by cutting down on the black-market drugs available to them while also cutting down on the incentive of drug gangs to lure children into black-market drug work.
The article notes that bar associations in many other states are taking up the issue with an eye towards producing similar reports. This can only be good for reform and it says much about the much maligned profession of the law.

Attorneys after all, also benefit from the prohibition and these folks will lose some significant amount of billable hours when the WOsD ends. It's to their credit that they recognized the inequities and futility of the drug laws and press ahead for the social good even against their own economic interest.

The trouble with informants

This is rather amusing. An attempted marijuana buy in an undercover operation went wrong when the alleged dealer took the informant's cash but never returned with any of the herb. The cops finally had to call the suspect on his cell and tell him he was holding their money in order to get it back.

Of course, it's disturbing that an alleged marijuana dealer would deliberately try to rip someone off but it's always good to see this sort of undercover entrapment go bad.

[hat tip Jackl]

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Singer in my head - Nat King Cole

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire... Okay, I'm in the Christmas spirit now. When I started the car my favorite Christmas carol of all time was on the radio. I was thinking as I pulled out of the driveway that I should figure out why I didn't get my order from the toy place. I was gone for ten minutes. When I came back the package was by the door and everything is intact and just as good as I hoped it would be. My tyke shopping is done.

The sweatshirt is well made and feels cozy but light. The Thomas on the front is a high quality embroidery, as the legend in the back, but the tracks in the back and the legend on the front are that rubbery decal stuff. I don't love that but chances are he'll outgrow before it starts cracking and flaking off in the wash. I think it's worth the money if you have a little Thomas fan in the house.

Why I bought this wallet, I don't know since he has no interest in the concept of money. It was really cheap, it will fit in his stocking and I think he'll like the picture on it. I figure he'll enjoy opening it and closing it with the velcro. The picture is covered with a clear vinyl. Definitely worth the two bucks.

The dinnerware is plastic and just the right size for a toddler and the Thomas and Bob the Builder books were exactly what I wanted. Low on words, big on pictures.

This place was slow in delivering but they have a great inventory of the must have character items. I'm keeping them in my shopping favorites.

The last thing I got were these magic finger paints. I saw them on TV and it looks like fun. With the other two toys I got, I think that's enough and it's only the 7th. I even have great Pooh wrapping paper.

I haven't been this well organized in years.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Just legalize it already

Norm Stamper has a kickbutt op-ed in the Seattle Times. It starts with this,
Sometimes people in law enforcement will hear it whispered that I'm a former cop who favors decriminalization of marijuana laws, and they'll approach me the way they might a traitor or snitch. So let me set the record straight.

Yes, I was a cop for 34 years, the last six of which I spent as chief of Seattle's police department.

But no, I don't favor decriminalization. I favor legalization, and not just of pot but of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth, psychotropics, mushrooms and LSD.
And ends with this,
The demand for illicit drugs is as strong as the nation's thirst for bootleg booze during Prohibition. It's a demand that simply will not dry up. Whether to find God, heighten sex, relieve pain, drown one's sorrows or simply feel good, people throughout the millenniums have turned to mood- and mind-altering substances.

They're not about to stop, no matter what their government says or does. It's time to accept drug use as a right of adult Americans, treat drug abuse as a public-health problem and end the madness of an unwinnable war.
Read the whole thing and if you have a few minutes, send an LTE to The Times thanking them for printing such a thoughtful and sensible piece.

Quick bytes

Playing catchup here tonight so I'm just going to work off the top of the inbox.

Did you know you could join as a member of the Marijuana Policy Project for only ten dollars? If you have forty to spare you can get a nifty tshirt as well. They have the legalization issue coming up Nevada so now would be a good time to donate if you never have before.

Flex Your Rights has a post on the gutless judge who upheld the subway searches in NYC. He basically ruled on behalf of forming a police state.

The Toronto City Council will be taking up the issue of whether to "support federal legislation to decriminalize marijuana, provide crack kits to users and study the need for "consumption" or "safe injection" sites where addicts could inject hard drugs."

I like this one. Broward County, FL is being sued in a class action for illegal strip searches of persons charged with misdemeanors.
[The Plaintiff's] Attorney Kevin Kulik said there may be thousands of people who had their civil rights violated.

''BSO books about 115,000 people a year,'' Kulik said. ``I expect to have maybe 20,000 to 30,000 clients by the time this is all done.''
And under the heading, turnabout is fair play, a big wheel county prosecutor in Montana gets ridiculed and arrested on an illegal stop stemming from "a multi-agency sobriety checkpoint." He had this to say about the ordeal.
"It's given me firsthand experience with something I'd heard about but never encountered myself, that is, these rogue officers who mistreat the public and, frankly, who violate the law."

One wonders if this will change the way he treats defendants from these checkpoints in the future.

The next big thing

Sure to replace Atkins and that Miami Beach one, The Eat Whatever You Want diet. There are people who swear it works. You have to admit it sounds appealling.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sunny Sunday afternoon

It turned out to be unexpectedly pleasant so I spent a couple of hours raking leaves in the front yard. They're a lot worse than they look. I managed to make a new pile for the bonfire and raked up a bunch more piles around the yard but I didn't burn anything today. I figure once those are done I'll be about a third of the way through - the front yard that is. The side yards and the back are smaller but the leaves are worse. I really won't be done until spring. The good news is, as you can see, the trees are mostly bare now so I won't have to do it twice.

Meanwhile, tell me this tree doesn't look like it swallowed the Grinch. Obviously, I spent some time playing with the camera and figured out how to upload to the desktop. It took forever to figure out why the software wouldn't install but it appears as an added bonus, I now have a working version of quicktime again. It's also saving the pix where they're hard to find for uploading to the net, but we are nothing if not adaptable.

Anyway I frittered the evening away on it and it's back to work tomorrow. It seems I'm pretty much on Mon-Fri this week so the drug war news continues to build up in my inbox and I'm not going to post any tonight. I'll be sifting through it as I can but I'm sure the latest buzz is being posted by the fine blogs on the blogroll.

Blame it on the Tshirt

What is it with our government's war on tshirts? Don't get me wrong, I don't like these "Don't Snitch" shirts particularly but it's pretty sad that the Boston police are blaming their failure to prosecute cases on witnesses being intimidated by them. The shirt is just an form of free expression and the fear of retribution will be present with or without the fashion statement.
Boston has had 66 homicides so far this year, matching a 10-year high, and police haven't identified a suspect in 70 percent of them. Police say many witnesses fear retaliation, and Menino said the "Stop Snitching" shirts are part of the problem.
In response the mayor of Boston threatened to send city employees into the shop of local vendor and seize the offending shirts. Unfortunately, the owner of the store caved and will be voluntarily discontinuing sales of the item which he has offered since 1999, selling about 300 or so a month.

One guesses this will have no effect on the Boston PD's inability to solve homicides and what a reflection on the sorry state of our society that people will trade off free expression for the illusion of safety without a murmur of protest outside of the ACLU.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Dutch take lead on legalization of cannabis production

Thanks to The Media Awareness Project for bringing this bit of awesome news to our inbox. Dutch planning to regulate marijuana crop. It's a subscription based article that will eventually be available at the MAP link, but here's some initial excerpts.
AMSTERDAM - A broad coalition of political parties announced a plan yesterday to regulate marijuana farming on the model of tobacco, in what may be the most significant development in Dutch drug policy in years.

Opponents in the government said the move would be tantamount to legalization. But the proponents, representing a large majority in parliament, have threatened a showdown if the government tries to block the proposal.
Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende opposes the plan saying, "This experiment would be at odds with Dutch law and there's a legal problem" internationally as well." Meaning it will piss off Bush and his merry band of US prohibitionist pushers. But legislator Frans Weekers, said the current policy is "hypocritical and leading to increasing problems."
"There comes a moment when you say: 'Now we have to take the next step,'" Mr. Weekers said in a telephone interview. "If this pilot program works and we can show to everyone that it's an improvement, then you have a good argument to take to foreign governments." He added there was no support at all for criminalizing marijuana among either politicians or Dutch society.
Now if we could only get our own politicians to make that much sense. Proponents of the proposal point out the contradictory approach of tacitly legalizing personal use while criminalizing production and its inherent effect on crime and public safety. The Dutch, always leaders on this front, are looking for new way.
Dutch mayors along the country's borders have lobbied hardest for the change, facing problems from drug tourists from Germany and Belgium who drive to the Netherlands to buy supplies. Supporters said regulation of production would, like regulating tobacco, make smuggling large quantities across the border more difficult. "It will be possible to trace where cannabis is grown and where it's sold," Mr. Weekers said.
As the author of the article notes, "It also could open the door to outright legalization and taxation of an industry with annual domestic sales estimated at the equivalent of more than $800 million Canadian."

Let's hope so. It's about time for someone to come up with a legalization model to prove it could work to the benefit of civil society.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Love my new toy

This is the second shot I took with my new camera today. It's so easy to use, I can upload to the laptop directly from it and I think I can upload to this old desktop through the docking unit thingy. I'm going to figure that out tomorrow as I'm home for the weekend.

I'm not one to get all excited by material items but this is a little bit of high tech that I'm loving already. Prepare yourselves for an onslaught of photoblogging. I hope I figure out the video part in time to get a shot of the bonfire when the embers look like the neon lights on Broadway.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Photos in my future

I managed to get the battery charged and figured out how to turn on the camera and set the date. There's too many modes to figure out at once. It appears I can even take short videos but I think tomorrow I can try to just take some auto photos and see if I can figure out how to upload them to the computer.

It may seem I'm taking this kind of slow to the kind of people who just take the camera out of the box and start using it without reading the instructions, but for me this speedy. I'm the kind of person that doesn't even usually take it out of the box for a week so I'm way ahead of schedule.

Students fight back - will sue over HEA

I'm way behind on the news but thanks to Talk Left, we didn't miss this announcement.
Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and the ACLU are seeking plaintiffs for a lawsuit challenging the Government's ban on student aid for those with a drug conviction.
More than 175,000 students have been deprived of aid under the “drug provision” of the Higher Education Act (HEA), often for minor offenses such as possession of marijuana in the last five years. Many times for possession of miniscule amounts of marijuana as teenagers. Students with alcohol infractions on their record -- a far larger group -- do not lose their aid.

If you're one of these students who lost their funding, or know someone who has, please join in this action.