Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I worked today and I pinched a nerve or something and put my shoulder out and I have to watch the State of the Union in a few minutes so I'm taking the night off from the drug war, although I urge everyone to send a healing thought to Steve Kubby who is suffering some ill treatment in the Placer County Jail.

For tonight, a few more balloon dreams. This is a picture of my dear friend Jim's balloon. I've flown this one as well. It's a Brian Boland special. Brian about invented the sport in New England and he makes balloons. You can get a deal on a balloon this ugly. It's made of leftover fabric from other orders. But she flew well and Jim gave her that beautiful name - Felicity.

He said to me, don't you think that sums up ballooning? The sport has changed a lot since then, but at the time I had to agree. Meanwhile Brian, who can't be described in a single sentence, is still in the business of bringing ballooning to the masses. He's got a new kit that's so light and portable, it will fit in a car.

Maybe I'll go up to Vermont this summer and have a look at it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dig this

I found a different meaning in this story than Guy K who unearthed the fab photo
The 2,400-foot tunnel runs from a warehouse near the airport in Tijuana to a warehouse in San Diego. It was unclear how long it had been in operation, but more than two tons of marijuana were found inside.

Authorities said the passage was 5 feet high and ran as deep as 90 feet below the surface. It had a concrete floor, lights along one of the hard soil walls, a groundwater pump, and pipes that circulated fresh air. [...]

The Drug Enforcement Administration has said it suspects Tijuana's ruthless Arellano-Felix drug syndicate or another well-known cartel was involved.
Guy's crowd see this as an illegal immigrant issue. Our views on that in general of course, conflict to put it mildly. But that's not the point. Our politics intersect on drug policy reform. They don't believe in the WOsD but as non-consumers they don't see it as an issue of great concern to them . So in hope's of making the connection, I left this comment on that thread.
I have my doubts that drug runners would get involved in human trafficking simply because drug runs depend on secrecy. Every person that went through the tunnel would know about it and there's more money in running pot than people. But it's certainly possible, and for sake of argument let's assume it's true. It just points up how the war on some drugs compromises our security.

Whoever was involved for whatever reason, drug money built that tunnel. Because Americans are not allowed to grow a plant that Thomas Jefferson had in his garden, an organized crime syndicate has a market for their product. Legalize home production and you eliminate their market and their incentive to dig tunnels. It's as simple as that.
Will it help? I don't know. I hope they'll think about it. All I know for sure, having come to know them in the cybersense in the last few months, is that behind their politics, they're not so unlike us. We're all just good people doing the best we can with what we have to work with. I think if we worked together, we could end the drug war a lot faster.

Wooldridge in Washington

Our friend Howard Wooldridge checks in with his weekly report on the world of reform lobbyists. Having hung out with Howard when he's in action, which is always, I can just picture him buttonholing these guys.
How to Make a Politician Smile: Since my arrival, I have been telling Congressional Staffers how “Law enforcement is mosquito on the butt of an elephant. We don’t make a difference.” Late last week I followed that up with, “You’ve given us over a half billion dollars in the past 35 years and we have made 0.0 difference. Please, STOP GIVING US MONEY!!” So far every staffer but one (from Texas) has at least cracked a big grin with several saying they had never had anyone request less money for their issue.

I visited 27 offices during the week. It was the last week before all the Congressmen returned to town = free time will be at a premium.

The highlight of the week came on Friday, as LEAP speaker Norm Stamper was able to bring me to a dinner and social hour at a prestigious DC institute and think tank. . Norm, recently retired chief of police of Seattle, WA was a speaker at the event. The gathering included about 50 large-city mayors from around the USA. 4 of 8 that I chatted with came right out and agreed with the LEAP goal. Those declarations were followed quite quickly with the proviso that they would never whisper that in public. Hearing such things, it is such a sweet wine to the ear, followed by vinegar on the tongue, as they refuse to go public.
You know the really frustrating thing about that is I can't find anybody who thinks marijuana shouldn't be legal. I've been hanging around the right wing crowd at Gut Rumbles and look at the comments in this post. These guys are not centrists. They're not extremists either, they're mainstream Red State Republicans. So it's not like there's a lot of political danger with a reform plank.

The people get it. It's the politicians that don't.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

We're light

So I was surfing the net before I went to bed the other night and I ran across this site. Now, this kid is a high class balloonist. He comes from a family that has a big commericial operation in Holland and he flies expensive balloons in exotic locations. I was with the homebuilt crowd, the seat of the pants fliers. Hell when I started crewing for Topper, we didn't even have radios. Nonetheless, looking at the photos reminded me of my ballooning days.

I've been thinking about it ever since. It's not too late for me to get my ticket and become a commericial balloonist. I love everything about this sport. What's not to love about a flying machine with only 3 major controls to worry about -- altitude, temperature, and fuel. Of all the ways I've flown, I love ballooning the best. Not that I didn't love skydiving also, but it's a solitary sport. Balloons are so much easier to share with your friends and more fun for the spectators.

I was delighted to find a photo online of Topper -- "my balloon" -- although I didn't own it, I've flown it both as a passenger and a pilot. My first balloon ride was in Topper at the Glens Falls rally. It was a magical moment. That year they had 80 balloons all lifting off at the same time. For reasons too boring to list, my husband, my daughter and myself were all able to take the morning flight together with the owner and pilot, Bob Batchellor.

As we lifted off, the sky was littered with ballons for 360 degrees. Some were bumping together, kissing they call it, and all were at various altitudes all around us. Topper, being homebuilt and an odd shape, eventually went in one direction and the 79 others went in another but we had almost a two hour flight at mostly low altitude and traveled the longest distance of anyone. I didn't realize until much later, how unusual that is.

We landed with fuel to spare in a big yard in a little cul de sac. The whole neighborhood came outside, some still in their pajamas and bathrobes -- you fly really early in the morning -- and as was the custom in those days, we left the balloon standing and gave tether rides until the fuel ran out. No kid brave enough to get in the basket went away disappointed.

You don't see that so much anymore at the rallies. The new generation of balloonists don't want to put the wear on the top, and granted it does diminish the hours you're going to get out of the crown, but I always thought that was the most fun part of the flights. Well, except for when there's no landowner around when you land and you get to drink the champagne for breakfast yourself.

Anyway, Topper always gave tethers and as far as I know the new owner, Bob Sommer has continued the tradition and the balloon is still standing up proud after what has to be at least 20 years. It's obvious they put a new crown on it, but judging from the fade, the envelope is still original.

That balloon will live longer than I do. It's already outlived Bob and Dotty, rest their souls, the original owners that I crewed for and whatever fabric it was made of is probably indestrucible if weight is any indication. That is the heaviest balloon in the history of the sport which is part of the impetus to give tethers. Makes for plenty of helping hands on the deflation which was quite a job and it takes four people to lift into a van once you throw the bag into the basket.

I remember the first time I helped deflate a Cameron. I was amazed. It was just me and the pilot. It was like lifting air.

We get mail

I know I'm getting to them when they pull the drug card out.
From: Michigan_Patriot
City: macomb, USA
Subject: Weblog NEW POLL RESULTS
Comments: NEW POLL NUMBERS ARE IN! An Gallup Pole survey of Libby Spencer's brain cells were taken and these are the results: 79% could not answer due to inoperability caused by drug use; 9% are still strongly liberal and highly addicted to illegal drugs and Michael Moore films; 8% were too depressed to answer; 3% were distraught that their owner was oblivious to reality; 1% were hiding behind the shed, smoking a doobie.
If I had any doubts, I'm certain now that Michigan Patriot is my old co-blogger Michael Ward. He used to post stuff like this on the main blog before they kicked him out. It's of course a reference to my frequent posting over there in support of the legalization of all drugs. I should threaten to sue him for libel, but this is one of his more clever comebacks. It made me laugh anyway.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

And they wonder why I worry about the impending police state...

I didn't know this. From Cadillac Tight, a note about steroids, a drug that to my knowledge doesn't even get you high.
If you do click through and read some of the material on Anabolex, keep this in mind: The folks over there who use these drugs are subject to the same penalties as someone who uses crack cocaine, or heroin. For the most part, they are simply 9-5 workers like the rest of us, who spend more time exercising and studying supplements than most of us do. When they get busted, they are thrown in the pen with violent drug offenders and hopeless junkies - people that the government thinks of as their peers.
I've heard steroid abuse can make people kind of aggressive and cranky but should they be put in jail for using it sensibly if they don't do anything violent? It's not a war on some drugs, it's a war on unapproved lifestyles.

Welcome to the bloggerhood

Say hey to The Cannabis Report, a new blog started by my friend Ann Harrison, a long time member of the reform community. She's just getting started over there, but she's off to a great start and has fresh details on the Kubby case.

Kubby is now in the Placer County Jail and word has it he will be receiving Marinol. Since his cancer is so rare, there's no telling whether relacing the natural herb with the synthetic substitute will save his life. I doubt there have been clinical tests done on his disease. We live in hope that it does.

Meanwhile, Media Awareness Project reports supporters are being asked to email DA Christopher Cattran and Sheriff Edward N. Bonner asking them to make medical marijuana available to Kubby under the state laws. Kubby's arrest information can be found here.

If you do email them, be nice. It works better.

When the DEA plays doctor

This issue of Drug Sense Weekly is, as always, worth reading in full. But in case you don't get through it all, and frankly I don't always either, let me draw your attention to this item.

I've been blogging about Richard Paey since he was arrested, as have many other bloggers including TalkLeft, the Agitator and of course Drug WarRant. John Tierney at the NYT did a piece but this is probably the biggest break this case will ever get. This Sunday, 60 Minutes will be doing a segment on him.

This is another illustration of just how successful the reform community has been in raising the issue in the public dialogue. I don't think you would have seen this on mainstream television five years ago. Reviewing the promo, one would think it will be a sympathetic piece that takes a real slap at the prosecution.
Florida State Prosecutor Scott Andringa says, "This case is not about pain patients, it's just not. This case is about prescription fraud. We were very reasonable in this case. But once somebody says, 'I'm not going to accept a plea offer however reasonable it is …' "
Paey refused to plead to a crime he didn't commit. He believed a jury of peers wouldn't convict him. By all reports, they didn't want to. Unfortunately, under the draconian drug laws, they were forced to do so by the system.

The body of the state's case rested on the amount of pills Paey procured. The prosecution contended that no one could take that much medication themselves and thus charged him with dealing based solely on the amount. They had no witnesses who could claim buys. The lede paragraph in the CBS promo is the ultimate rebuttal.
The same judicial system that prosecuted Richard Paey for obtaining too much pain medication is now supplying him in prison with more than that amount to ease his tremendous pain.
One hopes with the nationwide exposure this story will get on the program, will generate enough public outrage to set Paey free. Even the stauchest prohibition supporters in Florida must see that hundreds of thousands of their tax dollars have been unwisely spent on this case and Paey's incarceration.

If nothing else, how ironic that the taxpayers are now paying to provide Paey with more drugs than he had been able to obtain on his own on the outside and which he paid for himself; not to mention the costs of incarcerating him instead of allowing him to return to being a productive tax-paying member of society.

Paey should be pardoned. Why don't you drop Jeb Bush a line and tell him so and beat what I hope will be an avalanche of mail in Paey's support.

News of the North

Sorry kids, I was just burned out last night. Crashed out cold at 9:00pm. But the news waits for no one, and via Mycos (and click over to see his photo of the giant puffball), here's a couple of items of interest this morning.

Steve Kubby left Canada as expected. Look at the photo in this article and tell me you feel so threatened by this man and his wife that you think it's worth hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to extradite him just to put him in jail for a single peyote button. The prosecutors should be jailed for negligent spending of public funds.

Meanwhile, I don't know quite what to make of this item. I find it hard to believe that anyone would bother to lace BC bud with meth. Not that no one has ever laced pot with other drugs, but usually it's done because the pot is lousy and they want to kick up the high so they can sell their dreck weed. A pot head would know the difference and wouldn't buy adulterated bud. A meth head wouldn't want to bother with the bud in order to get their meth high. So who is their target market?

Sounds to me like an effort to destroy the BC bud market with scare tactics, although as the article points out -- buyer beware. Know thy dealer. I might also note that if this is true, it rather debunks the prohibitionist's favorite argument that pot is addictive all on its own. If that were true, why would the dealers bother to lace the weed with an addictive substance?

Decide for yourself, but I'd have to say it sounds like your typical ONDCP pap.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Take a little trip

I'm working again today and have dragging around feeling kind of yucky. I'm afraid it may be more than just lack of sleep since the family has been fighting off some kind of bug for the last week. It may have caught me but no matter, I have a couple of day to rest once I get home. Besides, I had my ramen noodles for lunch. You may laugh but I'm convinced that whatever chemicals they put into that stuff keep you healthy. I've avoided more than one bug they brought home from the hospital.

In any event, no real posting going on here until later tonight but in the interim I would encourage you to pay a visit to Expat Brian who has a series of posts up right now on music of the 60s and early 70s including a nice post on the days of the Woodstock Nation. Life was a lot less complicated then. We thought we had changed the world. Who knew at the time, we'd have to keep coming back to readjust it?

Anyway, don't miss his post on the posters from the big concerts of those days. They don't make posters like that anymore. I was looking at that stuff thinking, no matter what they say about drugs and drug use, I don't think there ever was or has been since, a more creative generation than we were then.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Citzens must sue for public information

It's been a long day and I have to go to bed immediately so I can do it again tomorrow, so just a quick news brief from the DARE generation.

SSDP, in conjuction with the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, filed suit today against the U.S. Department of Education over a Freedom of Information Act dispute. All we want is a state-by-state breakdown of the 175,000 students who have lost financial aid to the HEA Drug Provision. But even though SSDP is a nonprofit organization, the government won't give us the data for free because, they claim, it could lead to drug legalization and that we might somehow profit!
The Department of Education want $4,000 to produce public records to a non-profit organization representing public interests. They erroneously claim that providing the information is not in the public interest, but instead could further the commercial interests of those who might profit from the legalization of drugs.

One wonders what possible profit they expect SSDP would make from this information. I mean I can't think any possible way a list of people who have been denied educational aid would be profitable. It's not like there's a large market for demographical info on the uneducated drug convicted population. What a sham.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Loretta Live

There's a reason, I'm not a world renowned expert. I'm a big picture kind of girl but I often get the little details wrong. I thought Loretta was going to speak at a candidate's debate but this was actually a candidate's forum where she addressed the crowd at the VFW as a solo speaker. She did a great job and gave a fabulous speech. You can see her in action on the video posted at the Nall for Governor site.

Let them chase terrorists

Picking up on my theme in this post, here's a prime example of how prohibition and increased penalities have drawn the criminal element into the marijuana market. I doubt these guys were actually Mexican law enforcement. It's not that difficult to get uniforms or surplus vehicles and what a good cover. The smugglers have become bolder as the stakes go up.

Our government hasn't eliminated the market with their vendetta against cannabis consumers, it merely drove the risk factor of supply up and thus increased the prices. The prices increase, so organized criminal enterprises are drawn in for the profit levels. They're the only ones who have the means and the ruthlessness to deliver the goods.

Every time they bust a non-violent producer like Cecil Hume, they create a market opening for suppliers like these Mexicans. If our government would simply allow consumers to grow their own, these guys would out of business within a year and our law enforcement could concentrate on finding real criminals.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I admit I have a problem

I need a 12 step program. I've becomed addicted to Acidman and his posse of rumbling and grumbling regs. I've already forgotten why I went there in the first place but these days I find myself there every morning. Acidman alternately astounds me or pisses me off but he does it with such exquisite, inelegant eloquence that I keep going back for more. I'm telling you, he's the Mark Twain of our age. His blog brings new meaning to the phrase, painfully honest. I've become ridiculously fond of the irascible Cracker.

I believe the sticker makes me an official member of the fan club. So what do I do with it? I'm sure as hell not going to slap it on my "looks good but could die at any moment" car. I could put it on my guitar case with the rest of my sticker memorabilia but that, along with my keyboard, never sees the light of day anymore. For the moment I couldn't decide which of the two shots to use for the graphic to this post. Then I remembered -- I have another blog.

Maybe I'll just keep taking pictures of it in odd places for a while.

Kubbys kicked out of Canada

Failing an last ditch appeal of the order, which the Immigration authorities claim is no longer within jurisdiction of any court, the Kubbys must leave Canada no later than Thursday. Steve will fly home alone while his wife and children drive. "I don't want our daughters to see what US law enforcement will do to their father," he said.
If he is forced to leave, Steve Kubby will fly directly to San Francisco, where he will be greeted by both US law enforcement and California medical marijuana activists, including representatives of California NORML. Every effort will be made to keep Kubby from being forced to return to Placer County.
The hearings in Canada appear to have been a sham with misleading evidence being presented by the government. It doesn't appear he will fare any better on this side of the border.
In his testimony to a Canadian Refugee hearing in April of 2003, Cattran said that Placer County had arranged for two specialists to fly in and testify at Kubbys trial that Kubby didn't really have cancer, but if he did, cannabis was contraindicated and would just make his condition worse. Of course, neither doctor had ever seen Steve Kubby, and the leading cancer specialist in BC had just testified to the contrary. Because of this attitude, Kubbys friends and family believe that his life will be in great danger there.
I'd have to agree. How many hundreds of thousands of tax dollars you think they will have spent on this one guy for possession of a few plants and a cactus button? He's not the kingpin of a major drug organization. He's not some gang leader who terrorized innocent citizens. He's a terminally ill person who grew a plant that gave him relief from his illness.

You know, the feds keep saying they need to wage this war on some drugs to "protect the children." I fail to see how chasing down a family who are of no danger to any American citizen and jailing their father for treating his own illness with an herbal remedy is "protecting" the Kubby girls, or for that matter -- us.

Pot scene thriving in Prague

But mainly for the natives. LAT has an entertaining profile piece on the barely underground cannabis culture of the Czechs. This is a must read in full, but I'll give you a few choice grafs.
Do you mind?" says Dolezal, his face slightly obscured as he exhales. "Excuse me if I don't offer you any. This marijuana's often too strong for my visitors. I had to resuscitate one guy for almost an hour once. You know, a higher percentage of people here grow their own marijuana than probably anywhere. It's typically Czech: a do-it-yourself nation."

Selling or offering marijuana is illegal here, but the law is permeable, containing a passage that could have been lifted from a novel by Franz Kafka, the Prague-born chronicler of the absurd. It's OK to possess "no amount larger than a small amount," according to the statute. ...

"We want to legalize marijuana," said Dolezal, tapping on his coffee table to check the turtle. "But we can't sell it in cafes like in Amsterdam because we'd get all the unemployed Germans coming here. We don't want foreigners consuming marijuana in public. It could demean marijuana. We like the system where a friend gives it to, or sells it to, his friends."

Costing as little as $5 a gram, marijuana is cut and rolled throughout Czech society. "There's seven profiles of marijuana smokers: computer programmers, environmental activists, university students, teenagers, villagers in Moravia who now smoke joints instead of drinking plum brandy, reggae music listeners and 80-year-old ladies buying marijuana for their husbands who have Parkinson's and other illnesses," Titman said.

Across town, it's just after dusk when Dolezal settles into his chair and lights a joint the size of a cigarillo. The scent whirls, and he is happy. His dog hasn't budged on the bed. His turtle is half-submerged in the coffee table, where Dolezal has scattered pictures submitted to the magazine Reflex, which recently held a contest for the best photo of a marijuana plant.

"Look at these — beautiful," he says. "Plants are just like wines. You have darks and whites. The whites are most popular. The white widow, white shark, sweet tooth. Ahhh, the white widow is my favorite."
The article goes on to note there is a thriving market among the locals across the country. But it doesn't mention any associated organized crime problems. This being because they produce their own and share it. Apparently, the Czech enjoy more freedom than we do in the US. Cannabis is reported to be cultivated on balconies and in bathrooms all over Prague. You can't do that in America anymore.

The Bush administration has made marijuana its primary target in the war on drugs and for 40 years penalities have been increasing for its use. We have the highest incarceration rate, by far, in the world. We do have a problem with organized crime in the US marijuana market now, that wasn't present in the 60s when the plant was treated as casually as it is currently being treated in the Czech Republic.

The lesson is obvious. [hat tip JackL]

Monday, January 23, 2006

I knew him when he was just a Gay Potato

Whenever I see Fountains of Wayne in the news, I'm always surprised to remember my friend Chris Collingwood is famous. I knew him and his lovely wife for years when I was a bartender at the Baystate Hotel. They used to come in when the bar was dead.

They were always nice, really intelligent and made interesting conversation. We developed a relationship of sorts. We would run into each other in town and stop and chat. They used to bring their Scrabble board to the bar and we would play. Chris is really good at the game but I beat the pants off him once.

I didn't want to do it. He really likes to win and I don't care as long as it's close and it's a fun game but I had the perfect letters to nail him and I just couldn't resist. I spelled eland and I had a great placement on the board that gave me a ton of points. I even knew what it meant.

I wouldn't say we were close but Chris came to an after hours at my house one night and I probably saved his marriage. He was really drunk and the cute little groupie that followed us all home was angling hard for a - ahem - ride home. I made sure he left with his reasonably sober buddy and without her. I figured she was just after him because he's really cute and a fabulous musician. He had a little local band going at the time. That's probably true enough but I bet she also knew he was big time.

Me, I knew he was in FOW but I didn't have a clue who they were and a lot of musicians I knew played in out of town bands. I didn't find out they were famous until they were nominated for the Grammy. Anyway, it's nice to see the band doing well. They're about to cut a new album. If I remember, I'll try to look for it in the fall but the truth is, I'll probably forget. I don't follow contemporary music much.

Meanwhile, if you happen to be reading this Chris and wonder why your Scrabble games have been off for the last three years, it's because I have one of your tiles. I believe it's the letter "E". Not to mention I have photos of you and your friends sitting at the bar in the last days of the Baystate Hotel that I've been meaning to send you. Email me your address.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Living like a drug war refugee

I've been remiss in posting on Steve Kubby's case. This surprisingly from the LA Times outlines the bad news for the Kubby family. After five years of legal wrangling, Steve lost his extradition appeal and could handed over to US authorities within a week. His wife, who is currently handling his defense, hopes to appeal to the Supreme Court in an effort to delay the handover.

Kubby, a co-author of the medical marijuana law and his doctors contend he will die without cannabis. He won't get it in a US jail. Apparently the Canadian authorities value their US overlord's good will more than they value their conscience. One wonders what effect this will have on Marc Emery's case. One also wonders why our government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to extradite a man for misdemeanor drug possession charges if not for political vengence.

In any event, it's an unfortunate turn of events that seems certain to end in disaster for the Kubbys.

World view

I haven't looked at the world news in a long time. Australian authorities say Vietnamese gangs are taking over the cannabis trade Down Under and producing non-stop crops in hydroponic grow-ops. I see their police are just as optimistic about valuing the plants.
Hothouses operate around the clock with some plants able to yield more than 10kg of cannabis each.
Assuming that means kilos, even someone as "math challenged" as I am can safely say that's over 20 lbs per plant? What planet do these people live on?

Meanwhile, prohibition fever is striking in The Wiggles homeland with the federal government urging penalities be increased for simple possession, while in the UK cooler heads prevailed and the government refused to reclassify cannabis to a more dangerous class of drugs.

MP Chris Davies welcomed the decision saying, "Making criminals of people who are causing no harm to anyone other than themselves makes no sense at all. It is a waste of police time and public resources." Amen to that although I reserve judgment on the harm factor.

On a different note, in Morocco, the government is embarking on a program to develop an alternate economy for their poor farmers.
The project aims at varying the region's agricultural production, increasing the farmers' revenue, improving life conditions in rural areas, avoiding soil erosion, and creating an alternative agricultural activity to replace cannabis production.
Towards that end the government intends to distribute 600,000 fruit trees, mainly fig, carob, and olive and to foster contacts between the commercial users of the raw products and the farmers. It sounds like a lovely plan but I have my doubts it will supplant cannabis farming as long as the black market and its seductive profit levels exist.

The moronics of mandatory sentencing

Via TalkLeft, comes today's illustration of the futility of drug prohibition.
The defendant is 32, with an IQ of 72. He's a low level drug dealer. Under the federal mandatory minimum sentencing statutes, the Judge had no choice but to impose a sentence of life without parole.
The guy was a dupe. A paid runner. What happened to the "kingpin" of the operation?
The boss only got 20 years, because he didn't have two teenage convictions.
And in case you're wondering why the women's prison population is growing. Jeralyn offers this anecdote.
This is a common occurrence in federal courts around the country. Last week I was part of a sentencing hearing of five defendants who had pleaded guilty in a cocaine conspiracy. I watched as the girlfriend of one of the major players who cooperated with the government but had priors years ago got a ten year sentence, while my client in the same case, who did not cooperate and had no priors, got 27 months.
So what is served here? Justice? Not when the punishment is so out of line with the crime. Society? Not when the taxpayer will foot the bill for tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars to incarcerate a barely functional human being for life. Public safety? Not when keeping this guy jail means violent offenders will be released early because all the cells are mandated for consenual drug crimes. The war on some drugs? Not when the only effect is to create another job opening in the black market.

The only ones are being served are those who benefit from the prohibition. The government agencies like the ONDCP who pass out millions of tax dollars to PR firms for ineffective anti-drug ads. The cops who get easy targets. A lot easier to bag a marginally intelligent drug runner than it is to find a car thief, much less a rapist or a murderer. The prison industry that gets a guaranteed warm body count to keep its cells stuffed beyond capacity.

We already have over 2.2 million Americans in jail. Probably half of those inmates could become contributing members of society under a reasonable and humane system that focused more on rehabilitation and less on pure punishment. If we could solve the problem of drug abuse with incarceration, don't you think it would have worked by now?

Meanwhile, our communities struggle to fund schools and fire departments while their budgets are bled dry from the costs of incarceration. There has to a better way.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Promenade your partners...

I may just give up drug war blogging some day and concentrate on flora and fauna and microwave cooking. When I started this blog it was pretty much Pete and me. Now there's a dozen really good blogs doing consistent policy reform news. We're getting louder folks. That can only be a good thing.

Over at Kos, one of our favorite bloggers thehim from ReLoad, has his regular Drugwar roundup diary posted and he covers all the drugs right down to alcohol and tobacco.

When I started LOS, there weren't that may sources much less outlets for drug related news. Now there's more than a dozen blogs can even cover but more importantly it's crossing over into the general political dialogue. Every day you see more and more mainstream political pundits, making the connections between the war on some drugs and the general assault on civil liberities.

Don't tell anybody, but I think we're turning a corner towards reform.

Let's all sing like the birdies sing

So I didn't get up until almost noon today because I watched the dumb movie. The premise was absurd but the skydiving stunts were amazing. They had some incredible jumpers and I thought they caught the cultural spirit of the skydiving community quite well. Besides Nick Nolte was in it and I think he's kind of sexy. But I digress.

So when I shuffled over to the computer with my coffee, and opened the shade there was a bird sitting on the ledge, just looking into the window. He didn't fly away immediately, even though I started in my surprise. It was raining when I got up and the bush outside was full of birds for a good hour, chattering away. I think they're getting used to the camera because they finally let me get a couple of shots. Here's the larger version of the graphic, and here's the other one I took of this pair.

How pathetic is my life when this is the excitement of the day? Still, it's not so unpleasant. That little red guy hung around for a long time and he has a sweet little song.

What will Morales do?

Now comes the moment of truth for Evo Morales and his supporters. The former cocalero will be inaugurated as Boliva's president tomorrow. The $100 million dollar question is will he forgo that cash and end the US eradication campaign against the coca plant? Already he's hedging his bets.
Morales has toned down his rhetoric since being elected in December, suggesting that the government might maintain current limits on cultivation, at least until a study assessing the potential demand of the legal coca market is completed. He consistently reminds people that he is committed to fighting cocaine, but not at the expense of the farmers who want to make a living growing coca for legal use.
So we come to the harsher side of the reality of the drug war. If he ends the program he's 100 mil short in the treasury of a country that, to put it mildly, is not exactly flush with cash. If he allows it to continue, he loses his political base. I don't envy his dilemma.

It's not so unlike the dynamics here between the dependence of the economy on prohibition and the difficulty in redirecting the flow of revenue. Our politicians are too lazy to figure it out. Now with Morales, I hope we'll see if the model can be successfully shifted to an economy based on legal distribution instead.

For the moment, it's reported the eradication teams are idle and the cocaleros are optimistic that life will change for the better. One hopes Morales will be able to develop the market for legal products and keep his word to his people. Unlike our own politicians, I can believe he will really make a genuine effort. He grew up with the people he's trying to help. The Latin Americas are different that way, at least right now. Their leaders really are one of the people, they don't just play one on TV.

News Roundup

Pete's got it. I hate when I've missed a few days of the Drug WarRant. It takes me an hour to get out of there because you can't stop reading and today is no different. It's a scroller to the bottom. Anything of substance that has happened in the last week is there and it's too much to highlight except for this which, with my apologies to Pete, I'm going to just steal outright so I have it in these archives. Plan Colombia By The Numbers.

Adam Isaacson's got the data:
Total U.S. aid to Colombia over the seven years between 2000 and 2006: $4.72 billion

Square miles of Colombia sprayed with “Round-Up Ultra” herbicide, 2000-2005: 2,550

Land area of Delaware, square miles: 1,954

Square miles planted in Colombia with coca, the plant used to make cocaine, in 2000,
the year Plan Colombia began: 526

Approximate cost of fumigating one square mile, conservative estimate: $162,000

Reduction in Colombian coca-growing from 2003 to 2004, in acres: 0

Percentage of coca plots detected by the United Nations in 2004 that did not exist the year before: 62

Amount per month, according to the United Nations, that a Colombian farmer nets from a hectare (2.5 acres) of coca: $199

Percentage of Colombia’s rural population living below the poverty line: 82
“Arbitrary arrests” documented by Colombian human-rights groups between August 2002 and August 2004: 6,332

Percentage of murders in Colombia that end in a sentencing: 4%
Colombians forcibly displaced from their homes by violence, January 2000-September 2005: 1.8 million
As you well know, numbers aren't my strong suit but these seem pretty clear to me. Not only are we losing the war on some drugs, the collateral damage is unacceptable for a civilized society to condone.

I love surprises

And what a nice one I had today. I sent out a half dozen Christmas cards this year; days late of course. On a whim I sent one to Dave Johnson, who I met when I was in the Florida Keys one year on vacation. He was the former owner of the place I was staying at and he used to show up at sunset to feed the sea birds. That's the thing I like about travelling alone. I probably wouldn't have connected with him if I hadn't been, but he was very nice and showed me around a little. Took me to the best bars for music and good food cheap. I've yet to have a better piece of fish since the last time I had a dolphin sandwich at The Mandalay. I really liked him.

Anyway, we corresponded for a while and then lost touch. I found his address in the box with the old cards and took it as a sign. Surprisingly he remembered me. Or maybe not so surprisingly. He claims he'll never forget our goodbye kiss. And get your mind out of the gutter folks, that was the one and only physical contact we had besides slow dancing. Not that I wasn't tempted, he's an attractive man, but I've never been one for vacation affairs.

He collects old music, on wax as I recall. He knows a lot about the old artists. For whatever reason, "our" song became Good Night Irene. So to make this short story long, I found a package from him in the mailbox. He sent me a cassette tape of music. Unfortunately my old boom box died before I left Noho and I never replaced it. I don't have any kind of music player right now so I can't listen to it. I'm dying to know what's on it so I guess I'll break down and drag myself to the big box store tomorrow and see if they still sell cheap boomboxes that play cassettes so I can find out.

I'm betting the lead song is Good Night Irene.

Mr. Wooldridge Goes to Washington

Yikes. I'm getting a late start today. Like an idiot I stayed up until 4:00am watching this ridiculous skydiving movie so I'm still waking up. Fortunately Howard Wooldridge checks in with his weekly newsletter and since it's not up on his page yet, I'll reproduce most of it for you.
Surprise of the Week:
This morning I had a break between meetings and headed to the cafeteria for a coffee. Just before reaching a table, a tourist asked me about my ‘LONG RIDER’ buckle.** We chatted for a few minutes about the Misty trip and then he asked what I was doing. I explained my mission to make drug problems a medical issue and use as the cornerstone of drug policy, personal responsibility. I stated that my greatest obstacle seemed to be to get the politicians to say the 3 hardest words in English: I Was Wrong. He laughed heartily and said he had to agree with me. He then introduced himself as Congressman Mike Honda from California. We chatted a bit more, leaving his aide to take my business card and LEAP pamphlet.

Rumor of the Week: With the growing scandal surrounding Jack Abramoff, look for photo ops of your Senators and Congressman eating lunch with zillionaire lobbyists at McDonalds. That will be proof positive that your politician is a good guy/gal and not taking lavish gifts!

In addition to meeting w/ staffers from 38 congressional offices, I participated in a conference sponsored by Scott Ehlers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The group consisted of reps from 28 organizations. The group is focusing on assisting each with state issues from death penalty to innocence cases to drug prohibition.

On Monday I made contact with a member of NOBLE (National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives) who acts as their rep on Capitol Hill. After a few minutes he was finishing my sentences and then paragraphs. After 45 minutes he promised to present to the NOBLE Board the proposal that they endorse the LEAP mission statement. Cross your fingers. Later that evening I met with Tara Andrews, Executive Director of Maryland Justice. I explained LEAP’s goals and pledged to help in anyway we could.
Way to go Howard.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Reform around the globe

It's Friday so the weekly newsletters are rolling in. DRC Net's Phil Smith explains the upcoming Canadian elections and what it means to drug policy reform. Frankly, I'm a little concerned about what's going on up there with the Conservatives gaining power. Every week it feels like the Canadians in power are becoming a little more infected with the dunderheaded prohibitionist thinking that plagues us on this side of the border.

Meanwhile, across the big water, Swiss reform activists are gaining ground towards common sense legislation effectively legalizing the use and production of the plant.

There's lots more including an especially galling Corrupt Cops of the week segment. Read it all for yourself.

Unintended consequences

This just in thanks to John F, from Drug and Alcohol Findings which bills itself as "the only magazine devoted to evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to treat, prevent or reduce drug and alcohol problems."

An excellent free sample article from the magazine, Boomerang ads [pdf] focusing on the failure of the ONDCP's anti-marijuana media campaign. The short version: Not only do the ads have no effect on decreasing the use of marijuana among teenagers, the data suggests that it increased the likelihood of some teens to begin using the herb.

We of course already knew that, but the article lays out the studies that prove it in an easily understandable format and at only two pages of text, easily readable. This one would be hard to find on your own. It's a keeper for the archives.

How did he do that?

I'm in heavy reading mode this morning. This link to Ashes and Snow, which I found via ExPat Brian who found it at Left of Center, should entertain you until I get back.

It's a big portfolio of amazing photos with a couple of video clips thrown in for good measure. Worth the time to go through the whole thing and keep in mind while you're looking at them that these are real, unstaged photos. I was just bowled over.

[A word on navigation of the portfolio. If you rest your curor in the corner, when the pointer turns back into a little hand, you can click to the next shot. If there's buttons to navaigate with, they didn't show on my screen.]

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sign of the times

If you live in Alabama you can get one of these bad boys for yourself. I feel like moving there just so I can vote for her.

Southern Grandma

My sister sent me this one. It seems somehow fitting for my life these days.
Lawyers should never ask a Southern grandma a question if they aren't prepared for the answer. In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand.

He approached her and asked, "Mrs. Jones, do you know me?"

She responded, "Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams I've known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you."

The lawyer was stunned! Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked "Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?"

She again replied, "Why, yes, I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him."

The defense attorney almost died. The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench, and in a very quiet voice, said, "If either of you bastards asks her if she knows me, I'll throw your sorry asses in jail for contempt."
Made me laugh. Thanks Annie.

Welcome to the 'hood

The Bloggerhood is growing again. Say hello to RegulateMarijuana.org, MPP's new blog launched in support of its fight for marijuana legalization in Nevada. They're just getting started but they already have some great content including news from San Diego where a petition drive has just started to limit the terms of Board of Supervisors.

The Supervisors in their entrenched and arrogant incumbency are trying to circumvent the will of the people on medical marijuana. MPP is joining with the petitioners to throw the bums out. Brilliant move.

Check it out.

Crime and punishment

Yeah, JackL is back and sends in this interesting article I would have missed in the Christian Science Monitor on the difference between FBI crime data and the actual solving of violent crimes. FBI statistics tend to support the notion that the crime rate is falling.
But discussions of police performance often fail to note another important but overlooked trend, apparently unrelated to the falling crime rate: Federal statistics reveal that the nation's "clearance rate" - the percentage of cases for which police arrest or identify a suspect - has fallen dramatically. And this shift is fraught with implications.

The arrest clearance rate for reported homicides recently dropped to about 60 percent compared with about 90 percent 50 years ago. This means that a murderer today has about a 40 percent chance of avoiding arrest compared with less than 10 percent in 1950. The record for other FBI Index Crimes is even more dismal: The clearance rates have sunk to 42 percent for forcible rape, 26 percent for robbery, and 13 percent for burglary and motor vehicle theft, all way down from earlier eras.
Yet we have the largest prison system and the most inmates in the world. Arrests are up so how to explain this anomaly?
Part of the answer must involve drug law enforcement - victimless offenses that aren't reported to the police or included as FBI Index Crimes. Instead of arresting suspects for burglaries and other serious reported crimes, cops today spend much of their energy going after illegal drugs. Their arrest rate for drug possession ( especially marijuana ) has shot up more than 500 times from what it was in 1965.

And what are some possible implications of this shift? For one thing, it may give criminals the impression they can get away with nondrug related crimes.
As the author points out, one can't judge the effectiveness of law enforcement based on only one set of criteria, (although I would bet anyone who is a victim of an unsolved theft or violent crime might be willing to draw some conclusions), but the discrepancy should "prompt some serious discussion about contemporary law enforcement's priorities." And as Jack points out in his email, "if the laws were different, wouldn't cops earning overtime having to book pot smokers have to work on some more serious "unclosed" cases, the average burglaries, robberies and murders?"

Kind of puts the drug warriors adamant refusal to consider legalization as an option into a new context, doesn't it?

Oh (Big) Brother

The Bush administration's war on everything continues apace. In an effort to revive an Internet child protection law, struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court as being unconstitutional, the White House asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its databases. They claim they need the information because they're too lazy to figure out "to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches."

Google, to its credit has refused to comply with the subpoena issued last year, "which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period." More troubling is this. "The government indicated that other, unspecified search engines have agreed to release the information, but not Google." What do you want to bet that those records conveniently belong to a million political dissenters and drug consumers?

As John Cole at Balloon Juice points out,
At some point, someone has to put their foot down. Every day it seems it is something else, there is some other bogeyman out there that requires us to cede more ground to the authorities. During the eighties and early nineties (if I remember correctly), it was crack and drugs in general, and this was used as the reason for rewriting how the government approaches searches and property seizures (see US v. Ross, Maryland v. Wilson, and Wyoming v. Houghton for representative examples- and this is just the tip of the iceberg and does not even begin to cover the full extent of the changes over the past few decades, to include the property seizures that go on every day).

Then came terrorism, which seems to have replaced the War on Drugs as the ultimate opportunity for power grabs by the government.
Keep in mind, they're not searching for people who are downloading child porn, just general porn search requests by adults for adult porn sites. Radley Balko perhaps sums it up best.
In other words, the government wants to snoop in on Americans' search habits in order to prove that the government can fight porn while still respecting our civil liberties.

Yes, I'm scratching my head, too.
Really and you have to love an administration that holds itself above the law but is willing to squander millions of tax dollars to harass the citizens by inventing new ones that legislate personal behavior.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dealers wanted

Another long day at the homestead and it was too cold to go outside today. The wind was just howling all day long. I came home and there were a bunch of big branches down around the driveway. I expect there will be more in the yard when the daylight comes. But life is good. I have the next four days off so I'll catch up on posting.

Meanwhile, this irritating little bust is fresh out of the inbox. The headline blares, Three charged in elaborate pot operation. And granted it was sophisicated with the underground setting and the elevator, but elaborate is a bit over the top for basically a rotating 200 plant grow. The cops of course, make it sound like some kind of gigantic enterprise.
A federal search warrant affidavit alleges the operation took in an estimated $5 million in three years, until federal and state authorities, tipped by a confidential informant, raided the farm on Nov. 9. They confiscated nearly 800 marijuana plants, with an estimated street value of $3 million, according to the affidavit.
Later on in the article it mentions the plants were in various stages of maturity, meaning there were seedlings to mature plants. I'm guessing not more than 200 were mature at any given time. Clearly this is a small operation that caters to a small circle of trusted consumers. But even taking the numbers at face value that's valuing the bust at $375,000 per plant for marijuana they later estimate sells for $4,200 to $4,800 a pound. So are they saying each plant will yield about 75 pounds of useable herb or that by the time it hits the street it will be worth $23,000 an ounce? Absurd. [LOL! Okay I did the math wrong again, and the sad thing is I used a calculator. I must have added too many zeros. Thanks to Acidman for the real values.]
If you do the math (I don't do math--- I was an English Major), you'll discover an average "street value" of $3,750 for each plant at "at all levels of maturation," grown in a 1000 square-foot (32' X 32' is 1024 square feet) area, with each plant having 1.25 square feet of space in which to grow and yielding 0.84 pounds of reefer picked and dried. That's one hell of an efficient farming operation.
As for millions these guys made, at the time of the bust, they found $6,000 in cash. It's unlikely they have Swiss bank accounts. They weren't making millions on an operation that size. And the main guy had a record for pot busts, sure, but he's an ex-Marine with a family and a job as a welder. So essentially our government just spent tens of thousands of dollars chasing down a productive member of society who happens to smoke and grow a plant.

He lives in the South. He owns guns. He's not accused of using them but with the sentencing enhancements for possession of firearms, he's going to jail for a long time. So how have you been served by seeing your tax dollars go to incarcerate a non-violent tax paying member of society?

I can't think of a way either. But I can guarantee that other dealers will step in to fill the gap. Basically your tax dollars just went to creating new jobs in the black market. I could think of better ways to spend the money.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Celebrating Al Hofman - father of LSD

My pal Ann Harrison has a new piece posted at Wired with the details on the 100th birthday party for Albert Hofman in Switzerland. Over 2,000 scientists, researchers, artists, historians and assorted computer geeks showed up to celebrate the man and his work, namely the re-discovery of LSD-25 at the conference LSD: Problem Child and Wonder Drug held recently in Basel.

So why do the computer geeks revere the guy? Because some of the biggest breakthroughs in all that computer stuff nobody but a geek understands happened while they were tripping on acid. "When I'm on LSD and hearing something that's pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I've stopped thinking and started knowing," said Kevin Herbert, long time employee of Cisco Systems who also lobbied against drug testing in the workplace there.

If you need any more proof that responsible LSD consumption not only doesn't destroy brain cells but can make you more aware, consider this. "During a press conference on Friday, Hofmann revealed that he was told by Nobel-prize-winning chemist Kary Mullis that LSD had helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction that helps amplify specific DNA sequences." Meanwhile, there's a resurgence of interest among psychiatrists and other therapists in the drug's use in treating various emotional disorders. Newly allowed trials in treatment of PTSD for instance have shown great promise in the early stages of testing.

Just goes to show how the drug war works. Drugs that are shown to be useful and in fact therapeutic with little or no side effects as LSD and marijuana are vilified by those drug warriors who benefit from their prohibition, touted as "dangerous drugs" while pharmaceuticals that often cause death and other severe adverse reactions in patients are rushed to market with the blessing of our law enforcers. One might note that the pharma corps are big political donors to the legislators who make the laws favoring their less useful chemical concoctions while banning these drugs that have been used for millenia.

You don't have to drop LSD to see the cause and effect in that.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A question on cannabis

I like this story. Nothing earthshaking here but a pleasant and amusing account of a recent candidate's forum in Toronto. I liked the punch line.

[hat tip Tim Meehan]

The Weekly Nall

Loretta is getting familiar with the Statehouse in preparation for her gubernatorial run and on behalf of drug policy reform. Day One was a bit of a wash legislatively but comes with colorful backstory and Day Two saw some drug legislation of dubious value come before the body.

Meanwhile, Terry's holding down the news side of the blog. Definitely worth a scroll. My personal favorite is about the jury who acquitted a store owner on drug paraphernalia charges for selling blankets with a big marijuana leaf on them.

From the story, this has got to be the quote of the day.
Police Chief Rich Adriaens criticized the decision, saying the jury could have taken a stand against drugs. "Just because six people found someone not guilty doesn't mean the crime didn't occur," Adriaens said.
He's right. A crime did occur. He's criminally negligent in wasting thousands of dollars of the taxpayer's money prosecuting an activity that no one in his community considers a crime.

No place like down home

Where I live you don't see many sights like this, it's a little too urban, but it's all around me in the countryside. Thanks to Loretta for the photo essay, Why I Love the South.

My personal favorite is the luggage carrier on the car. I think that one is universal.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Boliva's Morales and the coca leaf

I'm digging through the in-box to see what we missed over the last week. Here's a really good article on the newly elected president of Boliva, Evo Morales. I'm not the only one who's waiting to see how the US, with its addled-brained war on drugs mentality, is going to deal with a new world leader who vows to legalize and in fact promote the growing of the coca plant in his country. The piece is well worth a full read, but here's a couple of excerpts to get you going.
Mr. Morales had also been a coca farmer himself and leader of the coca growers association. He knows very well that coca leaves are themselves not harmful or dangerous to health. It is the extracts, namely cocaine, free base and crack that are dangerous and harmfully powerful.
The author goes on to point out that cocaine in fact does have medical uses in a clinical setting and it's only the abuse of the alkaloid that causes harm. Meanwhile the plant itself has been used as a non-toxic "folk medicine" for thousands of years by the indigineous Bolivians.

Every restaurant offers mate de coca tea, which functions as stimulant similar to coffee and also combats altitude sickness. Legions of poor Bolivians chew the leaf, "which dulls hunger, cold and fatigue."
Mr. Morales had predicted that his victory would be a "nightmare for the United States." His prediction could come true with his determination to encourage the growing of coca and his promise to make the rapacious oil and gas companies pay what he says should be a fairer share of profits to Bolivians.

The United States has stated that it expects that the new and subsequent Bolivian governments to honour previous commitments to fight the production of illegal drugs.
Morales has already stated he's against the illegal production of cocaine and the US of course fails to mention its interest in the oil and gas reserves of the region, for which the drug war -- via their eradication raids on the coca plant -- has long served as a cover for their attempt to take control over those industries through privitization and "free trade." A fact well evidenced by the preponderence of coca raids that are staged in the same areas of the oil and gas pipelines and our permanent military bases also located strategically nearby to the same.

Morales has taken their cover away with his promise to legalize the leaf. If they no longer can conduct flyover raids against dirt poor coca farmers, they lose their best excuse to keep a military presence in the country. And with Chavez, Lula and Castro forming a loose alliance of sorts in order to bring a stronger presence in trade negotiations, I see trouble down the line.

The rhetoric out of the White House has long been vilifying Chavez for his "leftist" government and implying he somehow stole an election where 80% of his people put him into office despite the best clandestine efforts of the US to prop up his opponents in the oligarchy. You don't see much in the western press about this, but the Latino Americas wait with great interest to see how far the Bush White House will go to bully them into submission to US policies. The longer the three leaders stand up to the west, the more likely other countries will join them in this power bloc.

We wait with them and can only hope that the over-extension of our troops in the Middle East will prevent Bush from launching another insane and ill-advised invasion in order to gain control of the region's resources.

Strange days

Man what a weird morning. Right after I published the last post, I started feeling really nauseous and my heart suddenly starting pounding right out of my chest. I freaked out, took my blood pressure med and a tranq for good measure and laid down for a few minutes so I wouldn't immediately vomit them back up. I just woke up two and half hours later, having slept through the morning - lying in the bright sun - something I never do. I was having more weird dreams but I can't remember them this time. Very strange, but at least I feel better now, albeit a little dopey from the tranq. So much for my time management plan for the day.

Myths and reality of mandatory sentencing

Sorry kids. I ran out of steam yesterday. I laid down for "just a moment" to rest my aching back and next thing I knew I woke up out of a bizarre dream this morning. I was dreaming about Glenn Reynolds. He was saying something nice to me, so you know it wasn't real. But on to the news.

The NYT was on a roll this week. I missed this really well written piece on mandatory sentencing. It points out how school zone enhancements function as a discriminatory policy against blacks and Hispanics, who mostly live in urban settings where it it's next to impossible not to be living in a school zone. These enhancements were presumably enacted to keep dealers out of school yards but in the vast majority of the cases, the offenders weren't selling to kids. Excerpts:
The mandatory sentencing laws that have swept this country since the 70's have clearly done more harm than good. The inmate population has skyrocketed, driving prison costs to bankrupting levels, while having no impact at all on the drug problem. By taking away judicial discretion, the laws have led the country to write off first-time offenders who might have deserved second chances and to imprison addicts who could otherwise have been effectively and less expensively handled through treatment programs.

The broader message of this study is that the country can't just imprison its way out of the drug problem. Coping with this issue - while reducing prison costs - will require a complex set of strategies, including drug abuse treatment and prevention services and increased judicial discretion in sentencing.
If you have a moment drop the NYT a line, (150 words or less) and thank them for focusing on this issue.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Mr. Wooldridge Goes to Washington

I'm behind on posting Howard Wooldridge's newsletter. Latest issue is now available on the website and finds Howard touring around town for the holdiays with a friend. If you've ever spent any time with him however, you know that nothing stops him from spreading the word, anywhere or at anytime. That tshirt of his is a real icebreaker on the subject.
I was asked by a woman my age, "WHY?" I gave the usual reply. She said her husband works for the DEA and had just landed desk duty in DC. She now prays daily to God that he keeps the desk job until he retires in a few years. She told me they both know that the policy is no good and that dying for the policy would have no meaning or purpose. I choked up on her words, wished her well and we departed.

With the holiday and a visitor from Germany I was only able to meet with 9 staffers this week. The legislative director of a Congressman, who used to be an attorney general of a major state, gave me a solid hour of his time. He trotted out the same old lies and distortions heard in all 50 states, i.e. cannabis is a gateway drug, increased strength = 1973 Shaffer Report is worthless, millions would use heroin if it were legal for adults, etc. When I asked him a question which he could not or did not want to answer, he just jumped to another lie. It was fun for me and uncomfortable for him and his assistant.
Howard advises he's also going through slime remover by the gallon now that he's lobbying in the DC circuit and check out his spiffy new cowboy hat at the link. Go get 'em cowboy.

Outrages of the week

This is irritating. As Radley points out former presidential advisor Dick Morris has had his own problems with consenual crimes. So it's especially galling to see him spouting off in an op-ed calling for universal drug testing in the schools and an escalation of the failed drug war in general. not on the grounds of public safety but for political advantage. He said, "Crime is down, but drug use is still a vital Republican issue. Put it back on the agenda."

This statement would indicate he's living under the rock he crawled out from if it's indictative of his understanding of the politics around the issue.
As the victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia makes clear, cocaine is concomitant of oil in fueling terrorism in the Western Hemisphere. The narcoterrorists use our dependence on black oil and white cocaine to power their anti-American work and terrorist activities. Soon their terror will spread to our shores. Already the cocaine infects our young.
If Dick is expecting to get back into the pundit game, he better get a better handle on world events than this fine example of yesterday's propaganda. Apparently he didn't notice the policy reformers have been succeeding in debunking this line of crap.

Meanwhile, you should hang out at The Agitator and just read the last couple of days' entries. Radley continues his SWAT team follies watch and has a whole bunch of bum busts, including a disturbing account of a SWAT team being used to serve a warrant for a white collar crime, and the physical maltreatment of an elderly couple in Hawaii who were caring for their grandchildren and were mistakenly raided by the SWAT team looking for a box of marijuana. Worse yet, it took them three tries to find the box, so a second home was also wrongly raided. No indication on how much marijuana we're taking about here but it can't be much if it was sent to the island via the US mail.

Hey, this is my 3000th post

If I had realized before I drafted this, I may have done something a little more special. This rotation is going to kill me. Sorry I didn't make it here yesterday. Another 12 hour day and by the time I posted on the other two blogs I ran out of steam last night. Thankfully, I have a bit of reprieve this morning but it's going to be another long day.

Anyway, you have to love this town. It's got the world's worst post office. I mean in a town with a population of about 5,000 people, they regularly lose mail. I've not received bills and I've taken to driving my rent check over because they've failed to deliver it a couple of times.

I went over on Tuesday at about 4:00 to post a couple of things. The line was going out the door and they were already out of two cent stamps. Something that I gather happens on a regular basis there. During the holidays, they were out of holiday stamps two weeks before Christmas. Heck they were out of everything but ordinary flag stamps. The buzz is, the postmaster refuses to order enough.

Meanwhile, the guy who works the desk is an Oriental cat who barely speaks English and has some bizarre combination of a Southern/Asian accent that makes nearly impossible to understand what little he does speak. He was really surly because everyone was disgruntled about the stamp shortage. He told a woman ahead of me, he couldn't do anything but sell her a 3 cent stamp. Of course this is not true. He could have run tapes for two cents from the machine, but one supposes he probably doesn't know how to do it, or didn't want to bother with all the people in line. Much grumbling in the line about that, and it is kind of racket -- get that extra penny.

Me I was glad to get the letters out, even for few extra cents. I think the postal guy may be nicer to me next time. I had exact change and he was apparently running out of pennies. It took three tries to figure out that I needed 19 cents. When I handed to him, he said -- All Right! That's the only time I've understood him on the first try.

Update:Or maybe it's not my 3,000th post. I swear the counter said 2999, not 2099 when I went into the program but now it says I'm at 2101. I suppose it's probably me. Long time readers know my dyslexia often kicks in, especially with numbers. Whatever, between the three blogs, I'm certainly well over 3,000 posts on the internets. No wonder I have no life.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

May I have a blogroll please

Say hey to Donnie at Cadillac Tight. I found him through Acidman at Gut Rumbles and fair warning, his politics lean more to the right than the left but he's with us on drug policy reform and he doesn't automatically condemn lefties as moonbats for having a progressive outlook. I certainly don't agree with him on everything, but I really like his common sense approach so I put him in swingers. I also moved Acidman out of drunks and poets, even though he still is poetic, it didn't feel right to keep him in with the drunks now that he's sober.

And give a hearty welcome back to Jim at The Vice Squad. He's not posting much, it would appear about once a month, but I'm putting him back on the active roll in the hopes of encouraging him to blog more often. We've been missing you Jim.

Burned out

I just can't get blogging this morning. Actually I guess it's already this afternoon. I think I've overdone it with the leaf demolition. I made this pact with myself to spend a couple of hours raking and burning every time I have a day off, until the bloody job is done. Often it rains enough so I can put it off with a clear conscience since wet leaves make smokebombs, not bonfires. But this week I worked at it two days in a row and I feel like I've been hit by a truck this morning. It's kind of horrifying to realize how out of shape I am. Sh*t, when I lived on the farm, I could have dispatched the whole lot in a day. Of course, I was 20 years younger then.

The photo is of my best fire yet. I didn't have high hopes for that one, this was a pile of brush and leaves I had piled up in the back yard sometime in June and never got around to burning. It was pretty well soggy but all that Girl Scout training came in handy. I built that pile with precision, there was just enough of a breeze to keep it going without burning down the neighborhood and the judicious addition of dry leaves kept it going. I don't know if you can tell there were some major branches in that one. You could almost call them logs but as you can see they all burned down and there was a good flame even at the very end.

I keep thinking I should just hire some kids to finish it all at once, but I need the exercise and I do so love a good bonfire.


Via Acidman, here's a new toy for bloggers. I don't quite understand how this Egosurf works but you enter your info and it ranks you, I think, on your search engine traffic.

Interesting, I got a 5599 for LOS, only 1381 for the Impolitic and only 2133 for the DetNews politics blog which gets thousands of readers. I think Felix needs to get an RSS feed on that puppy so we get picked up by the engines.

I don't understand the signifigance of the ranking thingy. I was ranked 3rd, nowhere and 2nd respectively. It appears after all this time I'm still just a small fish in a big blogosphere but you're the best readers so why should I mind? You folks make me feel like a success.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Get the DEA out of medicine

Via Radley there's no new news here but it's good to see the NYT regularly press the issue of the DEA's war on pain doctors.

How we came to allow a government agency, obstensibly formed to protect the public, to second guess licensed practitioners of medicine and create an environment where tens of thousands of law abiding elderly citizens with debilitating illnesses and terminally ill patients die in extraordinary pain, is beyond my comprehension.

How sadistic can you get? They harass the doctors to the point that they're afraid to dispense prescription medicine and they hound the patients who turn to marijuana for relief, arresting them in their hospital beds if at all possible. It's way past time to end this insanity.

Good day for mandatory sentencing

It's a bad day for judicial sanity. We talked about Weldon Angelos' case back in November as an example of the extreme disparity in sentencing for cannabis "crimes."

The case has wound its way through the appeal process and unfortunately, justice did not prevail. The 55 year mandatory sentence was upheld by a federal appeals court despite the agonized decision of the orginal sentencing judge who said "he believed [it] was "unjust, cruel and irrational," and a "friend of the court" brief by four former U.S. attorneys general and nearly 160 other ex-Justice Department officials and federal judges.
"(Angelos' sentence) is contrary to the evolving standards of decency which are the hallmark of our civilized society," they said.
Judge Briscoe upheld the sentence with some truly bizarre logic.
In Monday's ruling, the appeals court judges said they agreed with prosecutors who said the sentence was appropriate for Angelos' convictions and for other behavior involving drugs, guns and gang activity that prosecutors had evidence of, but did not charge him with.

"Although it is true that Angelos had no significant adult criminal history, that appears to have been the result of good fortune rather than Angelos' lack of involvement in criminal activity," said the ruling, written by Judge Mary Beck Briscoe.
So in other words he's being punished for what they suspect, but couldn't prove he did. Furthermore, the appeals court agreed that police acted without proper authority when they expanded the scope of the search of one of Angelos' houses in Salt Lake City but allege that didn't adversely affect his defense?

Did I mention he's the owner of the rap-music label? This is lifestyle discrimination with a capital D. And for you second amendment supporters, keep in mind this guy is going to jail for longer than murderers or child rapists, mainly because of sentencing enhancements simply because he owned guns. He was not accused of using them in the commission of a crime.

First they came for the pot smokers....

Not getting any younger

You might not believe it, but I forgot my own birthday. I mean I thought of it a few days ago when Southwest Airlines sent me a really bizarre birthday card. It had this little pull tab. I thought a couple of credits might fall out -- it said pull here -- but it was just a strip of paper with gifts printed on it. I'm trying to decide if it's supposed to be a bookmark.

I got a couple of other cards on Saturday but I didn't open them because a little Girl Scout came to the door selling cookies. I put them down to answer the door and was so bemused by door to door cookie sales -- I haven't seen those in years -- that I forgot to open the cards. So I didn't remember when I went to bed last night or when I got up this morning.

Thanks to all my dear friends who emailed greetings to remind me. I might have forgotten how old I am. I think maybe next year I should have a party. It will be a double number.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Blog hopping

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast checks in with his own Top Ten Texas Drug War Stories for 2005. It's far superior to the Austin Chronicle's version.

Hey. Pete Guither at Drug WarRant is famous. He's been interviewed for a documentary on constitutional rights as related to Raich.

D'Alliance tells us Evo Morales has a website and an aide to NY Governor Pataki was arrested for crack cocaine.

And in case you haven't heard, the Dare Generation tells us the ONDCP is podcasting and wonders why the transcript of the drug czar's appearance on CSPAN has not been posted. Sorry I missed it. Apparently he was hammered by the callers.

Four crying out loud

I just can't resist a good meme.

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: short order cook, snack bar manager at a ski hill, bartender, law office manager

Four movies you could [and do] watch over and over: Lord of the Rings, Il Postino (the most beautiful film ever made - almost no dialogue), Charade, the original Sabrina (or any Bogie movie)

Four places you’ve lived: Norfolk CT, West Cummington MA, Atlanta GA, lovely downtown Northampton MA

Four fiction books you can’t live without: Lord of the Rings - Tolkien, 1984-Orwell, Brave New World- Huxley, Player Piano - Vonnegut

Four non-fiction books you consider essential: Mad Laughter by Jules Seigel, Peterson's Bird Guide, Peterson's Wildflower Guide, Dictionary

Four TV shows you love to watch: Weather station, Monk, Magnum PI reruns, CSI

Four places you’ve been on vacation: Amsterdam, Ambergris Cay in Belize, Fatima in Portugal, all over the Yucatan penisula

Four websites you visit daily: Gut Rumbles, Detroit News, Buzz Flash, WaPo

Four of your favorite foods: Guacamole, quesadillas, pizza, swiss cheese sandwiches

Four places you’d rather be: at the beach, in the Goodyear blimp, in a hot air balloon, on vacation anywhere in the Caribbean

Four albums you can’t live without: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Willam Topley - Mixed Blessing, Steve McCraven, Archie Shepp, Tom McClung - Song of the Forest Boogaraboo, Mark Herschler - Out of the Darkness

Okay, that's mine, so steal this meme and if you post it, please leave a link.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hot off the press release

Loretta Nall will participate in gubernatorial candidate debate.
Alexander City, AL,-- Jan 07, 2006 —Alabama gubernatorial candidate, Loretta Nall, will participate in the candidate forums being sponsored by the Smith-Leonard VFW Post in Wetumpka, AL.

This event will take place on January 23, 2006 at VFW Post 4572 located at 100 Otter Track Rd. in Wetumpka beginning at 7:00 p.m.

...Some of the topics Nall plans to address include drug policy and prison reform, repealing gun control laws, tax credits for private & home school families, non-compliance with the Patriot and REAL ID Acts, the Iraq War and Alabama sovereignty over the state militia, states rights, separation of state and church, fair taxes, gambling, ballot access reform, ballot initiative and referendum and bio-diesel.
You go girl. Loretta Nall for governor. Yeah. Can't wait for the inauguration ball.

Update: Heh. She's a roll. Loretta got a good mention on the local news.

Nall calls for open debate

Loretta Nall is shaking up the establishment while going full steam ahead on her gubernatorial bid in Alabama. She is supporting Governor Don Siegelman's call for an open debate among the candidates. She notes she should be included as a viable contender for the Libertarian nomination. I would agree. Alabama already makes it difficult enough to get on the ballot. If we're to fix what's broken with the system then the voters have the rightful expectation to hear from everyone and not just the mainstream candidates from the two major parties.

While you're there, check out the rest of the entries on her blog. She leads off with two interesting marijuana busts, one of a prison guard who was dealing to the inmates and another of an All-American Louisiana State University football player proving once again that cannabis consumers come from all cultural classes.

New blog in the hood

This one looks interesting. The International Extradition blog is following Marc Emery's case.

[hat tip Tim Meehan]

Easy money

Via Lex Alexander, I wish I had thought of this.

Steal this meme

I'm stealing this from Acidman, who stole it from Ellison but I'm adding my own twist. I'm using the last line from the last post I wrote on the first day of every month in 2005.
I may not like the politics around here, but you sure can't beat this weather.
The guy wasn't charged with a crime and he's clearly a great teacher - get him back into the classroom.
I think I'll be alright here.
It's like trying to stop a flood armed with a sieve.
Don't miss the excellent editorial by the LAT dissing the DEA's war on medical marijuana users.
There are too many better ways to spend that money.
If you live in Rhody, you should be calling those guys up and thanking them personally
When I opened the shades at 9:00, I thought I was still dreaming.
You're too high to drive.
Now if someone would just open up a decent deli, I'd be all set.
Glad I'm not paying these plumbers.
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.
I'm not sure what it reveals about my character, but it was fun. Try it for yourself. No rules, just pick a pattern and see where it takes you.

Oh, and Acidman, if you happen to read this, in gratitude for finding a new way to waste time such a fun meme, here's a link to a little game to while away your sleepless hours that I just know you're going to love.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I know it's late...

Mike, Irma and I started a little Christmas tree tradition when I lived on the block. I was sorry to miss the tree raising this year but thanks to miracle of the internets you can see they did just fine without me.

Wish I could I have been there. Here's looking at you kids.

It's about the sovereignty

Moving through the inbox, I see Marc Emery's lawyer and I had the same thoughts. That's one of the most interesting phenomenon on the internets to me. I tend to write as I go, before I do a lot of reading so as not to filter my words through other people's point of view. It seems so often, I'll use a certain phrase that I haven't seen in a long time and then discover that many other writers have used the same words in the same time frame. It's kind of uncanny, as if there's some kind of universal train of thought that we all hooked into. Thus I'm fascinated to see the lede on this article.
VANCOUVER (CP) - A lawyer for pot activist Marc Emery says the federal government's decision not to proceed with drug charges against his client clears the way for his possible extradition to the United States and means the federal government is kowtowing to the Americans.
Didn't I just say that? Spooky.

On a brighter note, This article notes the private charges brought by Paddy Roberts of South Slocan, B.C remain alive and he has countered the government by filing a writ of prohibition to stop federal prosecutors from intervening.
Roberts, who spent several months in a Dutch jail several years ago pending extradition to the U.S. on his own drug charges, said a lawyer took on the case at no cost.

"The implications, if we don't win, are very, very serious," said Roberts, chairman of the separatist Bloc B.C. party.

"It means that the (justice minister) of Canada is acting on dubious legal grounds, very dubious legal grounds, to try and interfere in a Canadian court process that will ultimately allow Americans to extend their criminal jurisdiction into this country."
Canadians, whether cannabis consumers or not should be very afraid if this extradition succeeds. Once the long arm of a US administration that eats its own civil rights for breakfast reaches over their border to snatch their citizens, due process will be as doomed in their society as it currently is in ours.

[hat tip to Tim Meehan]