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Vote Your Heart in 2012

June 11, 2012 Leave a comment

This morning I read “Radical Russ’s” article on theweedblog.com urging ‘marijuana legalizers’ to vote “pragmatically” with a mixture of dismay and resignation. Resignation because, as someone who spent twenty years involved in national politics, I’ve seen this well oiled canard before. Dismay because, by following Radical Russ’s suggestion, the entire anti-war on drugs movement guarantees the status quo.

For those who don’t want to take the time to read the article, I can sum it up for you in one sentence: Vote for Obama because Romney would be worse, and there are no viable third party alternatives who can win.

The problem with his argument is that there’s just enough truth in it to to be dangerous, which is why he, and a good many other people, continue to drink the ‘don’t throw your vote away’ cool aid. Yes, as things stand today, either Obama or Romney will be elected in November. The apparatchik of the two major parties spare no energy in ensuring that their spin machines churn out a constant stream of ‘don’t throw your vote away’ propaganda every presidential election cycle. And the bigger the third party threat, the bigger the propaganda machine is guaranteed to be, aided and abetted by the MSM’s favorite political talking heads, all of whom are in one political camp or the other. Then, of course, there is the deck stacking that makes it very hard for any third party to challenge the cigar smoking titans of the big two. Right down to, and including, the fact that a third party candidate isn’t even allowed onto the debate stage unless they have “at least 15% support in five national polls as of the date of determination. A rule only valid because of the tremendous pressure the two parties bring to bear on the MSM outlets that broadcast the debates. Opinions that might prove more popular than the apparatchik’s approved party message(s) might dilute their power base, you understand. And while the two parties don’t agree on much, one thing they can agree on is that they don’t want to lose their power base.

But just because the MSM and the apparatchik of the two parties have well oiled propaganda machines doesn’t make their propaganda true. What makes it true are people like Radical Russ and millions of others believing it, acting on it, and mindlessly repeating it. Try this thought exercise: Open your wallet (or purse) and take out a bill. It may be a $1, a $5, a $20, whatever. Now ask yourself this: Why is it worth what it says it’s worth? What, exactly, makes that piece of paper worth more than its value in btus of heat if you burned it?

The answer? Because you, and everyone else on this planet, believe it to be worth what the face value says it’s worth and act accordingly. That’s it. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, backing the dollars in your pocket except the widely held belief that Ben Bernanki can make good on his promise that a $20 bill is really worth $20 in goods and services. Likewise, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, guaranteeing that the Republican or the Democrat will be elected save that the majority of those going to the polls on election day believe that to vote for the Green Party, or the Libertarian Party, or the Communist Party candidate they really believe in would be the same as ‘throwing their vote away.’ So they hold their nose, vote ‘pragmatically,’ and then spend the next four years wondering why nothing has changed.

But the day that Americans quit believing the apparatchik propaganda, that truth will no longer be true. The day even a single voting block goes to the polls and votes their heart rather than ‘pragmatically’, all bets are off on just who will make it to the White House.

But that’s not today, you say, and you’re probably right. So, until such time as a majority of Americans do quit believing the propaganda, Radical Russ is right, I need to vote ‘pragmatically’ rather than my heart, right?

Glad you brought that up. Let’s look at that with a clear eye, shall we?

As things stand right now, no national candidate in modern history has every paid a political price for being “tough on crime”—which amongst other things means supporting the War On Drugs. But plenty of national politicians have been crucified for being “soft on crime.” Translation: To date, there has been absolutely no political cost for having locked up and ruined the lives of 2.5 million Americans for drug crimes (just in the last three and a half years). And until there is a political cost, nothing is going to change that political calculus for Obama, Romney, or any other national politican. I’m sorry to burst the bubble of the marijuana legalization warriors out there, but from Obama/Romney’s perspective, marijuana legalization, and even the whole War On Drugs, is a minor issue that can only hurt them, never help them.

There is a myth, promulgated by those of us who have and do work in the political world, and the media, that politicians are leaders. Think about it: How many times have you heard some reporter or lobbyist say something like “our political leaders” blah, blah, blah? But the truth is, democratically elected politicians are not leaders, they’re followers. To survive, they have to be able to read the public mood and flow with it, or they’re out of a job. Any politician who has a real spine and real beliefs for which s/he’s willing to fight will, despite what pollsters and the media tell us about ourselves, quickly find themselves back in private life. Democracies don’t want politicians who fight for their beliefs. They want politicians who fight for our, i.e. the electorate’s, beliefs.

And that dear reader, is why voting your heart, your conscious, even if, and perhaps especially if, the candidate of your heart is in a third party, is so important: It causes political pain! Okay, so maybe you can’t prevent Obama/Romney from being elected this time. But you can dis-empower him! A president who wins with only 40% of the vote has no mandate, no political capital. And the only real power a president has is that granted him by the majority of the people. No majority, no mandate, no political captial to do anything meaningful. It’s W. again—hopefully minus 9/11. Had we not been attacked, Bush would have been nothing more than a placeholder until the next election; a footnote in history.

Imagine an Obama/Romney with no power because the third parties sucked up almost as many votes as did they! Imagine a Congress so polarized by the insertion of real, third party coalitions that it’s even more dysfunctional than it is today. Sound scary? Maybe. But change is always scary, and there is so much to gain!

If enough anti-drug war warriors vote their conscience rather than ‘pragmatically’ as Radical Russ wants you to; if the third parties get enough votes to crack open the monopoly of the two major parties, if even only a little, then—then my friends, the game is on! Then we will finally be heard; we will no longer be able to be ignored by the entrenched plutocratic corpratocracy.

So go out and vote! Vote your heart; vote your conscious; vote for change; refuse to settle! For, as Thomas Jefferson once said: “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

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Bitcoin Meets Gresham’s Law

May 24, 2012 6 comments

If you’re a bitcoin user, you’re probably aware of the frailties the system has shown since the big bitcoin bubble of last year. There have been several huge bitcoin heists, a couple of exchanges have gone down, malware has stolen unencrypted wallets, and so on. Most of these issues have been fixed, or are being fixed. While the bitcoin bubble did, in fact burst—as all bubbles must—bitcoin’s trumpeted demise by so called economic experts not only seems to have been wrong, but in the after math of its publicity, the digital currency is actually gaining real traction.

Unfortunately, that real traction has exposed a very real problem with the digital currency that could end up killing it. Not quickly, mind you, but slowly, by a thousand cuts. Or maybe I should have said, a thousand fees.

Let us suppose I receive lots of small, ฿1 payments, and then wish to make a larger purchase. For example, let’s say I receive one hundred payments of ฿1 each, and then want to purchase something that costs seventy bitcoins. I could end up being forced to pay nearly ฿6 in processing fees—that’s an 8% surcharge!—for the transaction to go through. Failure to pay the fee cancels the transaction. This is exactly what happened to one bitcoin user last year. Just yesterday I wanted to test a new savings wallet on my system and was told I would have to pay a ฿0.0005 transaction fee, that’s 2.5%, to move ฿0.02 from my online wallet to my savings wallet. Why? Fragmentation. The bitcoin fragments in my wallet that make up the 2 bitcents are (apparently) very, very small indeed, which means that lots of transactions have to be processed by the miners—the volunteer computers who clear all bitcoin transactions. Apparently, the new bitcoin clients force users to pay fees when a transaction is comprised of a large number of small coins: a 70 bitcoin transaction comprised entirely of single coins, or a very small transaction, like my ฿0.02 transaction made up of even smaller bits of bitcoin.

Why is this problem appearing now? Well, I’m no bitcoin expert, but I suspect it’s because bitcoin has now been around for awhile and, given the very serious economic problems around the world, it’s growing in popularity. With greater use comes increased fragmentation, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to reassemble the fragments back into easily processable transactions. Let’s remember: bitcoin started as an experiment. I seriously doubt anyone believed it truly could become a global currency. Hence the relatively small cap on the number of bitcoins that will ever be created. Hence the complete lack of any mechanism to deal with attrition as wallets are lost (and so the bitcoins within them). Hence the complete lack of security in the original releases of the bitcoin client and the wallet.

The security issues are being fixed. Today, if you lose your bitcoins due to theft, it’s due to a lack of care on your part. Popularity has forced exchanges to ramp up their security to that of a bank. All of these measures are to the good.

But the fragmentation issue is another problem entirely. In the first place, bitcoin is supposed to be “cash.” Hard money that, like dollars or euros, can be handed to anybody else free of charge. While tipping the miners has always been considered the polite thing to do, it was never supposed to be compulsory. Nor was the amount to be “tipped” supposed to be a set fee. Yet slowly, the “tips” are becoming transaction fees that there’s no easy way for the average user to escape. John Doe may be paid his ฿5 in a single block, or his ฿5 may be made up of hundreds of coin fragments. He has no way to know until he tries to buy something with them and is hit with an 8% surcharge for using his money. Worse, unlike being handed 500 pennies, he can’t simply run down to the bank or local grocery and exchange his pennies for a $5 bill, free of charge. He’s literally stuck with five hundred pennies and the best he can hope for is that he might be able to make his purchase free if he breaks his ฿5 down into several smaller transactions.

Which leads us to the second issue, and the one that could end up killing bitcoin. If inflation heats up, sending the world economies into a second recession as many experts believe is likely, bitcoin will once again rise in value. That is only going to increase the rate of fragmentation which, in turn, could end up subjecting a greater percentage of bitcoin transactions to mandatory processing fees. This will set off a twenty first century version of Gresham’s Law. “Clean” bitcoins—those that are freshly minted and so not yet fragmented—will be horded because they’re not debased: There will be no transaction fees attached to using them. Whereas the “old” bitcoins that have been fragmented will be shunned because they’re no longer worth their “face value.” They’re worth their face value less the price of the mandatory transaction fee associated with their use.

And that could kill bitcoin!

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Throw The Book At Them!

April 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Ever noticed how, in this new era in which we live, that the Prison Industrial Complex just loves to “throw the book” at anyone who is found to not be “playing by the rules” as defined by our Government Overlords? It used to be that, if you were pulled over for speeding (shame on you!), Barney the cop might let you go with a warning, or s/he might give you a speeding ticket. That was it. No big deal.

But not today.

Today if you get pulled over for a speeding ticket you’re also likely to get a fix it ticket for the window that the neighbor kid cracked with a rock, for being three days late on your auto insurance, for that low tire, and that break light that’s out. And on any whim what-so-ever, your car can be searched and if so much as an old dried pot leaf is found, it’s off to jail with you!

Just a month or so ago the local sheriffs showed up at a “domestic violence” scene (that’s cop talk for what used to be known as a lover’s quarrel) and found a small marijuana grow. They destroyed it, obviously, confiscated the grow equipment and $800 in cash. Pot and money in proximity, you see, is automatic proof that the couple had been growing “with intent to sell.”

Never mind that we live in a world where the working poor and poorly educated are growing in number and being more marginalized and cut off from financial services every day. Cash in proximity to pot is automatic “intent to sell.” Never mind that the girl had a minimum wage job but no bank account, that the house was run down, the car was twenty years old—it was as obvious as the nose on the cop’s face that these people weren’t exactly rolling in drug cartel money. Yeah. Never mind all that. Just take the money and throw the book at them!

And that’s what they did. Because they also cut the power, so the couple’s food would spoil, because they found “code violations” in the electrical wiring. (They always do unless you’ve got an old contract showing the wiring was done by a licensed electrician, and even then it’s chancy.) So add a fine for the automatic guilt of supposedly doing electrical work without a permit (no proof that they actually did the work is required). There were small children in the house. They, of course, were immediately taken away from their parents and handed over to Child Protective Services, adding the charge of “child endangerment” to the list, even though there was no evidence of mistreatment, abuse, malnutrition, or even tardiness in school. Doesn’t matter. Hall the kids off to CPS where they can be taught how to deal drugs for real! (The success rate for children turned over to CPS and then foster care is abysmally low.) We’re going to teach these miscreants a lesson so they never step out of line again. Throw the book at them!

Except, of course. It never works. In the long course of human history it never has worked. You’d think we’d finally evolve enough to learn.

Did continual persecution of Christians by Rome for two hundred years get rid of them? They were tortured, stuck in the arena and made fun of, fed to lions, crucified, and who knows what else.

Did it kill Christianity? Obviously not.

During the inquisition thousands were tortured into confession, some were burned, others were drowned. A lucky few were simply excommunicated, though that rather came to a stop when Rome discovered that excommunicating those who don’t like you anyway does more to hurt you (in the wallet) than it does them. (They get to keep their tithe money.)

Did all those atrocities prevent the growth of science over Church dogma and belief? Nope.

Did all those atrocities prevent England from splitting with Rome? Nope.

Did all those atrocities prevent the Protestant Reformation? Nope.

The Soviet Union spent seventy years trying to keep it’s people under control. It erected walls to pen them in. It brutalized those who dared speak the truth about the regime or the true state of things in the USSR. It hunted down dissidents and banished them to live in conditions under which civilized people wouldn’t keep their own dog.

Did it prevent the truth from spreading and the walls from coming down? Nope.

You’d think we’d learn: “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one,” Thomas Paine once said.

But then, I keep forgetting: We live in an age where the wisdom of our forefathers is now considered but a fad of college youth that most (real) adults soon grow out of. Then the sagacity of true tyranny teaches them the folly of Thomas Paine’s wisdom and they soon come to believe that those who rebel against reason are not the real rebels, as Paine claimed. But he that in defense of reason rebels against tyranny, he is the real rebel, and he must, at all costs, be stopped. Or so our Government Overlords would have us believe.

College Inc.

February 1, 2012 Leave a comment

I’d like you to meet someone. Let’s call this person “Charlie.” Not a real person, of course. Charlie represents millions of people. You probably know someone just like him or her: S/he was doing fine, until the Great Recession. Not rich, but then s/he never wanted to be rich. S/he’s right in the middle of his or her working life, and is now middle aged. S/he’s married, but the kids are now grown and on their own. The parents are now elderly and getting on to that time when they’ll replace the children in needing regular time and attention.

Unfortunately, Charlie happens to be in one of those industries hit hardest by the Great Recession. Now unemployed, and pretty much unemployable, Charlie decides to do what a lot of people in mid-life are having to do: Go back to school. Charlie wants to retrain into a field that decades of life experience has proven s/he loves. S/he wants to become a scientist. A researcher like the ones you see on PBS’s Nature, or Secrets of the Dead, or Nova. That means, s/he needs a Ph.D.

Charlie has had some college, but never finished. So s/he knows that s/he’ll have to start at the beginning. That realization soon leads to some shocking truths about the American post-secondary education system. Truths that can be summed up as: Everybody wants their cut. They don’t put it that way, of course. Like all bureaucracies, the system is too well oiled a money making machine for that. It’s always couched in the flowery and self important language of “a well rounded education” and “a requirement” or a “prerequisite.”

The first thing s/he learns is that s/he may as well be eighteen again, not in mid-life. In the American college world, thirty years of life experience means nothing—even when it comes to a test like the SAT or ACT. A test designed for, as one testing expert put it, seeing how well high school graduates can process information. Charlie, as this expert explained to me, has been processing information for thirty years. S/he’s still alive and functional in the world, that means s/he passed. At Charlie’s age, the SAT is pointless—except for the money the College Board makes from their defacto monopoly that requires every would be college student take the test regardless of age or background.

The second thing s/he learns is that the “liberal arts” approach to education dominates the accredited college system. An approach that requires every student to take more general education classes in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, and so on than it does classes in their major. All for your own good, of course. That nobody else on the planet wastes everyone’s time and money on such nonsense is of course, to the arrogant American academic elite, nonsense! In Europe, for instance, with few exceptions, the liberal arts is, itself, a degree track. But America, as always, knows best. And as a quick web search will prove, much ink is spilled in defending the benefits of the liberal arts approach to higher education. That it makes a degree from an American college cost twice as much and take twice as long; that there’s no way out, even for older students who are already “well rounded— ” yes, Charlie could CLEP the general ed, but that would still costs as much as taking the class—well we don’t talk bout that.

With the average time to receive an undergraduate degree in the U.S. closer to six years than four (thanks to the liberal arts mandate), it was quickly becoming obvious to Charlie that s/he couldn’t go to school in the U.S. S/he’d be sixty five before s/he had a Ph.D! And a sixty five year old was a liability, not an asset, to an employer. So s/he began looking overseas, where college is treated as tertiary (career-directed post high school) education, not an opportunity to milk families of their hard earned money in the name of creating “well rounded individuals.” In the EU, s/he could earn the degrees in half the time and, because valuable time and money wasn’t being wasted on “music appreciation” and “critical thinking”, s/he would actually end up with twice as many credits in the major as s/he would in the U.S. liberal arts system. In other words, s/he would learn twice as much about the major, albeit at the expense of learning about “underwater basket weaving.” Even more exiting, s/he discovered a school in the UK that was accredited both internationally and in the U.S. that had a distance learning program. S/he could take care of mom and dad, work part time (if s/he could find a job) and still go to school full time.

Under this plan, if s/he hustled, Charlie could have a fully accredited, internationally recognized Ph.D in as little as six years! All other things being equal, that left twenty useful years to work in the new field and earn a retirement pension. This was exiting.

Then dropped the other shoe: While the school s/he’d chosen, and had been accepted by (without an SAT score, thank you very much!), was fully accredited, and entitled to U.S. Federal Financial Aid if s/he attended classes at the school, the U.S. Congress refused to fund those same classes when taught remotely by “a foreign institution.” For funding, s/he was on her own.

And, thanks to the recession, s/he was also bankrupt. Private loans were out of the question. They all required at least a moderately good credit score, which the recession had destroyed. Further complicating things, s/he was Caucasian, married, middle aged, both parents were college graduates, and s/he was enrolled at a “foreign” institution but was not “studying abroad.” Cumulatively, those facts disqualified Charlie from ninety nine percent of all grants and scholarships. In point of fact, after weeks of looking, s/he found only one real scholarship. And, though it didn’t explicitly say so, the application was so focused on high school seniors and recent graduates s/he doubted s/he’d be selected. S/he applied anyway, and while s/he was at it s/he also applied for two tiny lottery style grants, though s/he doubted whether it was worth the time.

The game, it appears, had been rigged by College Inc. It was beginning to look like Charlie might be stuck in a no win situation: S/he could either find a way to game the system and go on welfare and disability, like many people s/he knew had already done, or settle for a lesser goal in a field s/he wasn’t really interested in and endure the drudgery until retirement. Maybe. Statistically, time servers see their health fail long before those who work at jobs they love. S/he doubted that, by following the latter course, s/he’d survive twenty years in the new “career.” More likely, s/he’d end up being a drain on society anyway.

In today’s economy, Charlie’s isn’t alone. Roughly twenty percent of the U.S. population is Charlie’s age and hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, worked in the construction industry and related fields. The hardest hit sector of the economy. (19.6% of the U.S. population will be 65 by 2030. Statistically, that population is “Charlie” today.) They are an overlooked demographic that is not only under-served by the current post secondary education system, but that is dis-served.

Readers of this blog know that in my view the best thing that could happen would be for the government to butt out of higher education—or at least limit its involvement to the roll of fairness and guidance to ensure American post secondary degrees are comparable with those in the rest of the world. For the rest, the only thing Federal Student Aid has proven to provide is a ready cash cow for universities both public and private to milk at will. In the private sector the money goes to stock holders and investors, in the public sector it pays for platoons of bureaucrats who feed uselessly at the public trough. Private financing through corporate sponsors, scholarship and grant programs through foundations, and other creative methods such as human capital contracts would soon eliminate all patience for such fat and force universities to get back to the business of serving their customers, the students, rather than their investors or bureaucracies.

Unfortunately, such radical change is unlikely. The only thing the Charlies in America can hope for is that either Obama or Obama II (Mitt Romney) will address the inequities of the system so that older Americans don’t get left behind in the political, money grubbing dust that is College Inc. Because if they do, they will only add to America’s already out of control financial problems.

But in today’s crony capitalist system, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

The Enigma of Moral Laws

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

We humans just love to believe we’re analytical and logical beings. Recall a discussion on an issue where you disagree and I’ll bet you recall both you and the other parties trading ‘facts’ at a furious pace, everyone involved believing fervently that logic and reason, and perhaps even truth, are on their side. Failing personal experience, turn on CSPAN and watch your Congress debate an issue for a few hours; or go to your next city council or county board meeting. Somehow the ‘facts’ and the ‘truth’ seem to be on all sides.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the devout pontifications of the true believers in the halls of government and solemn chambers of the courts that ‘we are a country of laws’ and that ‘we are governed by the rule of law’. In one form or other, that has been the cry of every king, emperor, dictator, overlord, and petty potentate in history. A belief reinforced, of course, by punishments so hideous and grotesque they’re incomprehensible. And yet, history shows that the rule of law, no matter how inhumanely enforced cannot trump the true governor of all human societies: Culture.

It is culture that informs us, from a very early age, about what is right and what is wrong; about how we are to treat family, friends, strangers. It is culture that teaches us who we should marry, and in what number; when sex is okay, and when it’s not; what is obscene or pornographic, and what is not; what kinds of public behavior are acceptable, and those that are not. It is our culture that informs us who is one of ‘us’ and who is not. And to the extent that laws and culture agree, the culture will enforce the law. The Prince, to borrow from Machiavelli, is mostly irrelevant.

But where culture and the Prince part company, and the Prince attempts to enforce his or her moral will over the ruled, in defiance of the culture of the ruled, the Prince is doomed to failure. A thousand years of conquests in the Middle East did not turn Jews into gentiles. Even hundreds of years of exile, first during the reign of Babylon and then again during the Roman occupation did not destroy their culture. Nor did the Roman occupation destroy the cultures of the Greeks, Palestinians, Visigoths, Egyptians, or anyone else. Three centuries of crucifixions and other brutal killings did not end the Jesus movement. Despite the ‘rule of law’ and what might be called—to put it in a modern context—the war on Christianity, it grew to be the dominant religion of Rome itself, and then of the post Roman world. Despite thousands of be-headings, burnings at the stake, and torture elicited retractions, neither the distribution of the common language Bible and emergence of protestantism nor the rise of the age of science could be prevented. For all it’s brutality, the four hundred year long campaign to bludgeon the population into compliance through fear and intimidation failed. The inquisition lost to cultural evolution. As did the American Temperance Movement in its attempt to make drinking illegal, and the Soviet Union in its attempt to homogenize the diverse cultures over which it had imposed its will.

In point of fact, no law contradictory to the culture of the time has ever succeeded, no matter how brutal the punishment imposed. And yet, even today, politicians insist on believing they can make laws contrary to the morality of the time, and if they just impose severe enough punishments, give enough speeches, find enough ‘experts’ to go on TV and preach how good the law is for society, that they can change the culture.

The truth is, it’s the other way around.

American unjustly and inhumanely incarcerates more people than any other nation on Earth! According to some statistics, one million Americans a year are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana; careers ruined, lives shattered. And what do we have to show for it?

A for profit prison industrial complex (PIC) that, according to this fact sheet (pdf) has been growing at more than 6% per year. Crime, in a traditional sense, is no longer the sole, or even prime focus of what the government and press prefer to call the ‘criminal justice system’. Today the interests of government and private industry have merged. Money is now the driving force behind law enforcement, the war on terror, incarceration, and even how the PIC is perceived by the public. Or perhaps more accurately, how the PIC hopes they are perceived. A gullible public is, after all, a compliant public.

But the truth, as the old saying goes, is in the tasting. Just as the Roman Catholic Church was terrified of losing it’s hold over Europe, and the money that came with it, sooner or later culture will win out over the PIC. How soon? How many more lives will have to be ruined before the beast is brought to heel? That depends on your choices in the voting booth.

The Price of Corrupted Justice

November 26, 2011 1 comment

Dear reader,

Right now I am so disgusted I’m almost incapable of writing. So instead let me quote from the article I link to below. That will give you a taste of this unconscionable act of Government sponsored and funded police state violence.

If you think you understand how law enforcement operates; if you think it’s anything like those famous police shows like NYPD Blue or CSI, I hope this article opens your eyes a bit. It certainly did mine! What ordinary cops are doing to American Citizens is so reminiscent of the terror tactics of Nazi Germany’s SS or the Soviet KGB it’s horrifying. All thanks to Federal money, given to law enforcement departments who meet certain quotas in prosecuting the “War on Drugs.”

So without further ado, here it is. After a violent assault that hospitalized her, and that this young woman could not get the Chicago Police Department to investigate, this happened:

Shaver, her then-boyfriend and a roommate were in the apartment with her four dogs when the door flew open with the crash of a battering ram. “I thought we were being robbed,” Shaver recalled. “It wasn’t clear to us that they were cops at all. I had a flashback to my attack. I was just terrified. I peed myself. I had peed myself, and I was shaking, trying to gather my dogs while they were pointing these guns at me — these huge guns that could blow me apart. My Vizsla mix ran off, and I was afraid they were going to shoot it. I asked if I could get it, and they said ‘We don’t give a fuck about your dog.'”
According to the search warrant, the police were searching for Nate. Shaver said they looked through Nate’s belongings gathered on the couch and found about $900 and a sandwich bag filed with marijuana. They didn’t leave a receipt for what they took.
“They were going through his mail,” she said. “They tried to say he was my brother. They kept looking for some way to say he had always lived here. He had mail here, but it was mail he brought from his old place. It all had his old address on it.”
Shaver’s boyfriend and roommate were handcuffed. Shaver started to panic. She told the police about her prior assault, and asked if she could take some anti-anxiety medication and change her clothes. They refused.
“There were 20 to 25 cops in my apartment now. Some of them were in street clothes. Some of them were in SWAT clothes with face masks. They told me I wasn’t allowed to move. I wasn’t even certain they were police until about two hours later, when a uniformed cop showed up with the warrant,” she recalled.
Shaver says she heard laughter from her bathroom and bedroom. “They went to my bathroom and started going through all of my medication, laughing about how messed up I was,” she said. “I also have a ‘lady drawer,’ where I keep sex toys and some sex-related gag gifts friends have given me.” Shaver said that when the cops finally left, they had left her place a shambles. When she looked in her bedroom, the police had emptied the drawer and laid all of her sex toys out on her bed.
The raid ruined the door to Shaver’s apartment and she has since been evicted. She filed a complaint with Chicago PD, but never heard back. When she attempted to get a copy of the affidavit for the search warrant to see what probable cause they had for such a violent raid, she was told that since she was not the target of the raid, she is not allowed to see the affidavit. As for “Nate,” authorities have yet to issue a warrant for his arrest.
But Chicago Police did take the $900 in cash to add to their illicit takings for the year. And as you’ll see when you read read this very detailed and well researched article by the Huffington Post, this practice is becoming all too common a tactic with law enforcement all over country.

Marijuana Legalization: Let’s Get The Facts Straight

October 21, 2011 2 comments

You know, while it’s certainly the job of columnists to give us their opinion on things, I take exception when they start making up facts to suit their opinion. Especially when that columnist is a veteran who writes for a national paper. But this morning I endured just such a column by George Skelton, of the Captial Journal, in the Los Angeles Times. Skelton takes issue with the California Medial Association’s (CMA) legalization stance (also published in the Los Angeles Times). According to the Times, The CMA believes that:

It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for.

Skelton quotes the CMA as saying:

We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients. Currently, medical and recreational cannabis have no mandatory labeling standards of concentration or purity. First we’ve got to legalize it so that we can properly study and regulate it.

Which of course, Skelton also takes issue with by asking: “Whatever happened to studying a drug first to determine its benefits and risks, then deciding whether it’s safe enough to legalize?”

If Mr. Skelton knew what he was talking about, he’d know why that can’t be done. It’s been tried! As of August, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will only allow the National Centers for Drug Abuse to study the drug. For what? How to treat abuse, of course. Professor Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts has been trying to get permission to study the plant for nine years, according to this New York Times article.

But the Drug Enforcement Administration—more concerned about abuse than potential benefits—has refused, even after the agency’s own administrative law judge ruled in 2007 that Dr. Craker’s application should be approved, and even after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in March ended the Bush administration’s policy of raiding dispensers of medical marijuana that comply with state laws.

Which, as this Santa Cruz Patch article explains, has led the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to take the DEA to federal court for upholding a monopoly on research marijuana, and for blocking research into the medical efficacy of marijuana.

Another fact Mr. Skelton overlooked is that the Federal Government itself has conducted research into the medical efficacy of marijuana. Called the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program, it began back in 1978. Some say there were originally as many as thirty four subjects in the study, this website shows eight. In May of 2008 the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) issued a press release that stated:

The federal medical marijuana program—referred to as a Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program—resulted from a lawsuit filed by glaucoma patient Robert Randall, who successfully showed that his use of marijuana was a medical necessity.

The program slowly grew for over a dozen years. In the wake of a flood of new applications from patients battling AIDS—who found that marijuana boosted their appetites and relieved the nausea often caused by anti-HIV drugs—the George H.W. Bush administration closed it to new applicants in March 1992, but continued supplying federal marijuana to those already receiving it. Four of those patients survive today.

The Federal Government also holds patents on marijuana for medical use. The abstract for US Patent Number 6630507, which is held by the U.S. Government states:

Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH3, and COCH3.

So on the one hand, the U.S. Government insists that there is no known medical use of marijuana, and blocks research for anything but treatment of addiction, while on the other it holds a patent precisely because its own study found the drug to be efficacious in the treatment of certain medical conditions. Had Mr. Skelton been interested in the facts of marijuana, rather than trying to support his beliefs, he might have discovered this information himself, and asked why the Federal Government continues to deny requests to reclassify marijuana so that research can continue in an independent way, without the obvious conflicts of interest present inside the Federal Government.

Mr. Skelton also scathingly snarks: “What raised my eyebrows was a repeat of the old canard about how locking up stoners eats up too much tax money.” […] “Fewer than 1% of the inmates have been sentenced for marijuana or hashish crimes of any sort, according to state prison data.” Perhaps, but consider this. In a presentation to the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2010, Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance opened with a couple of disturbing statistics.

The United States now ranks first in the world in per captia incarceration rates, with less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of the world’s prison population. Roughly 500,000 people are behind bars tonight for a drug violation.

[…]
Police made 1.7 million arrests in 2008 alone, including 750,000 for nothing more than possession of marijuana for personal use. [pg. 2]

A White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske quote from this LEAP document, entitled ‘Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred,’ sums things up beautifully:

“I understand, from firsthand experience as a police officer and police chief, that we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of a problem this complex, and that a ‘War on Drugs’ mentality is too simplistic an approach to be effective.”

Fortunately, Mr. Skelton’s antiquated and unsupported point of view are on the wane. In a poll published last week, Reuters announced that half of Americans now support full legalization of marijuana, Last year a gallop poll showed that 70% approve of legalization for medical use. The only question is, how long will it take lawmakers, who must answer to bureaucracies terrified of having their budgets cut, to answer to their constituents rather than those agencies?