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Feb 012012
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I’ve long believed that the so-called War on Drugs does much more harm than good.

The good folks at Drug Policy Central have come up with a War on Drugs Clock. The amounts reset on January 1 of each year.  The numbers below are are cumulative from the first of the year only!

 

Arrests for drug law violations this year are expected to exceed the 1,663,582 arrests of 2009. Law enforcement made more arrests for drug abuse violations (an estimated 1.6 million arrests, or 13.0 percent of the total number of arrests) than for any other offense in 2009.

Someone is arrested for violating a drug law every 19 seconds.

Source: Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Police arrested an estimated 858,408 persons for cannabis violations in 2009. Of those charged with cannabis violations, approximately 89 percent were charged with possession only. An American is arrested for violating cannabis laws every 30 seconds.

Source: Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Since December 31, 1995, the U.S. prison population has grown an average of 43,266 inmates per year. About 25 per cent are sentenced for drug law violations.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics

 

Our jails are getting fuller (a good thing for the for-profit private prison industry being pushed through in state after state) , the costs of the so-called War on Drugs is out of control, and many guilty of nothing more than smoking a joint see their lives destroyed.

I believe the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana could help turn a number of states’ troubled economies around, including Florida, where I live.  But that’s just one of the many reasons to end the war on drugs.

I’ve interviewed a few people from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) a number of times on my show because they hit the nail right on the proverbial head.  I invited them on again today, as they were in the news…

You may recall that the White House and YouTube held a “Your Interview With the President” event on Monday.   People submitted video questions, and the public voted on them. Unfortunately, the topic that received the most votes, and the actual question that had the second highest number number of votes, was completely ignored.

The question was submitted by former LAPD  Deputy Chief, Stephen Downing -

It’s time that this very important issue be debated and discussed, not ignored or laughed off as the President did the last couple of times it came up at similar events.  So, this morning, I had a lengthy discussion about it with LEAP co-founder Peter Christ.

In the wake of yesterday’s discussions about Occupy Wall Street, I invited my friend Jesse LaGreca back on the show to discuss where the movement is headed. I suggest you listen to the whole thing, but he agrees with me that we need to occupy the ballot box, big time!

 

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Aug 172011
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Once again, I have to point out the hypocrisy of the right.  Many of your elected (Republican) representatives now want to charge you for the right to ask them questions.  From the idiotic freshman nut job Ben Quayle to the wacky’s wunderkind Paul Ryan, these people who were elected to represent all of their constituents are foregoing town hall meetings in favor of pay-for-access events.

Of course some – like my congressman (Allen West) are still holding events that they call “town hall meetings”. But, as I know from personal experience, they’re actually lectures where, if you dare to try to ask a question or say something in opposition to his position, you will be thrown out and risk arrest.

That’s the flavor of democracy, GOP-style, in August 2011.

But if you go back to August 2009, you’ll find reams of evidence that the Koch Brothers and Freedomworks-funded teabagger lemmings were being recruited to go to Democratic representative’s townhall meetings with the expressed goal of disrupting them.

In fact, Think Progress got hold of a leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, with details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:

Tea Bagger Memo

– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous,stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

The Think Progress story continued:

The memo above also resembles the talking points being distributed by FreedomWorks for pushing an anti-health reform assault all summer. Patients United, a front group maintained by Americans for Prosperity, is currently busing people all over the country for more protests against Democratic members. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the NRCC, has endorsed the strategy, telling the Politico the days of civil town halls are now “over.”

News accounts of the actions of the town hall disrupters dominated the news (and comedy news)

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But this year, when constituents go to town halls to try to ask actual questions of their representatives, they’re either thrown out and arrested or denied entrance if they don’t “PAY to say”!  What ever happened to our first amendment rights?  Somehow, I think the idea of members of Congress charging their constituents for the right to ask a question has got to be against the law.

Sometimes, you don’t even have to speak to be denied access to an official event with your representative.  This morning, I spoke with Teresa Crawford, who wrote to me of her experience being denied entry to a publicly advertised forum to which she had RSVP’d!  She wrote to me of her experience:

I tried to enter a forum on energy featuring my congressman Joe Heck.   I was turned away, although my RSVP was accepted the day before by the local PR firm that organized the event on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute at a casino resort in Henderson, a few miles from my home.

Based on some quick research, I found that new state-based front groups sprang up this year–Nevada Energy Forum– in the wake of API’s decision to leverage Citizens United to add direct electoral cash to their robust lobbying program. At the door, the head PR flack maintained the event was never intended to be public, although it was advertised in a local paper and one of her staffers put posted a friendly invitation on my friend, blogger Andrew Davey’s wall.

Rep. Heck spoke at the event in his status as a House Member, on the taxpayers’ dime. I took it as an RSVP-only event, with limited or no Q&A, not a true Town Hall, but really wanted to hear his defense of supporting every vote to protect the interests of Big Oil, while opposing help for renewable energy at a fraction of the cost. Solar, wind and geothermal projects mean jobs for Nevada in construction, maintenance and most important manufacturing. We have one of the most skilled work forces in the nation and too many of them are idle in the wake of the construction bust.
By definition, private events are invitation only, not posted on Facebook and in the newspaper.

A small group, including myself, stood quietly outside the meeting room for a few minutes before the event started. I held a handmade sign that said Green Energy/Green Jobs and was wearing a yellow Sierra Club “Beyond Coal” T-shirt, admittedly in contrast to the business attire of attendees entering the room. My friends held a banner that read “Stop the oil Subsidies.” There were no personal attacks on the congressman, in stark contrast to the disruptive Tea Party behavior directed at former Congresswoman Dina Titus in the summers of 2009 and 2010. Because of holding the sign, although I did not attempt to carry it into the room, I was denied entry for being a protester on private property.

Here’s an odd twist: This woman who turned me away knows me by sight and name because I’ve volunteered for campaigns she’s managed, in other words, helped her earn her substantial living. Although she is a Republican, two local Democratic politicians hire her for their campaigns, hoping for the Republican contacts and donations they need to win.

I know no one ever said life was fair, but this is ridiculous!

Today’s show also included a conversation with Christopher Glenn Fichtner, M.D., author of the new book Cannabinomics: the Marijuana Policy Tipping Point,  and my friend – author/pundit/strategist Cliff Schecter about Rick Perry, the Tea Party, the hypocrisy & cowardice that defines the Republican party and more…

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Apr 202011
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A date that means different things to different people.

April 20, 1889 Adolph Hitler was born.

April 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, starting the largest environmental disaster in US history.

April 20 is also known as “Weed Day” as pot smokers around the world celebrate 420 (whether 4:20 or 4/20) as a time to indulge.

I also mistakenly thought that today was Earth Day. But as I went to find just how many years Earth Day has officially been with us, I found that it is not today, but rather on April 22.  Duh. I know I knew that somewhere back in time.

Regardless, it is Green Week on NBC/Universal/Comcast/GE – just in case you didn’t hear them remind you of it every five minutes.

Just in time for today’s observance, Jason Leopold writes at Truthout: “BP Still Being Awarded Lucrative Government Contracts.“  Tomorrow, I’ll speak with Greg Palast, who also has a few things to say about BP and their “safety” record in his “BP’s Secret Deepwater Blowout“.

We went a bit off the date topic in the first hour today with Kenneth Bernstein, better known to many Daily Kos readers as TeacherKen.  He is a teacher, and is one of my fellow Netroots Nation DFA Scholarship winners.  Since we met during the competition, I’ve wanted to have him on my how.  His school is on spring break this week, so he had some time to join me this morning to talk about public education, charter schools, unions, budgets and the need for a national board for professional teaching standards.

How ever you choose to celebrate, happy 4/20 day…

And Thanks BP….

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Aug 102010
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When will they ever learn?

Today should have been a great day for the Dems. Seriously.  The House of Representatives reconvened to help states insure that teachers, firefighters and police will stay on the job, and to make sure funds were available for Medicaid.  Of course, the naysayers on the other side of the aisle have no sense of decency and don’t seem to give a shit whether or not their constituents are taken care of… but that whole story has taken a back seat to two other sideshow stories today.

First, Charlie Rangel, he of the 13 ethics violation charges, decided to take TODAY of all days to exercise his right to get up on the House floor to try to defend his reputation.  On a day that the Dems should be proudly crowing about doing something good for the people of the country.  Instead, Charlie Rangel’s ethics, or lack thereof, would take the spotlight.

Well, the White House could have used that incident to point fingers and blame someone else for their troubles… until White House press secretary Robert Gibbs opened his big fat mouth!

Seriously, Gibbs opened mouth and inserted his foot so far that Linda Lovelace probably gagged.

He gave an interview to The Hill, blasting the “professional left,” by whom I guess he meant the few liberal voices on cable television and, perhaps, radio:

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

Seriously Gibbs, you want to go there?  I think I might be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president. He would have fought for single payer health care, and certainly wouldn’t be sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan and asking for billions of dollars more to fund these reprehensible wars, especially while our country and its citizens are drowning in debt.

Even Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) took such umbrage at Gibbs’ remarks that he told Huffington Post the Press Secretary should resign!

Ellison said that Gibbs’s resignation would be an appropriate response. “I think that’d be fair, yeah. That’d be fair, because this isn’t the first time. And, again, people of all political shades worked very hard to help the president become the president. Why would he want to go out and deliberately insult the president’s base? And why would he confuse legitimate critique with some sort of lack of loyalty. Isn’t this what the far right does? Punishes people who are not ideologically aligned with President Bush?”

It’s wrong to suggest that progressives want to eliminate the Pentagon, said Ellison, adding that he doesn’t know a single Democrat who has espoused that view. “I know of none. So I think that was an inflammatory remark that is emblematic of his careless use of language and is an example of why he may not be the best person for the job,” he said. “Gibbs crossed the line. His dismissal would be fair.”

Ryan Grim, who wrote that piece for Huffington Post, will join me at the top of tonight’s show to talk about Robert Gibbs’ verbal diarrhea, along with the two other stories that I mentioned at the top of this post: the passage of the bill for which Congress reconvened today, and the untimely speech delivered by Charlie Rangel.

Don’t worry, my show is over at 8pm ET, just in time to hear Keith Olbermann deliver his Special Comment in response to Mr. Gibbs.  I can’t wait for that one.

Just in case you missed it, here’s Charlie, in all of his, um, glory…

We’ll also delve into FireDogLake’s Just Say Now campaign (with Students for Sensible Drug Policy) to legalize marijuana with Jon Walker, and get a news update from Talk Radio News.

In hour two, Nicole Belle of Crooks & Liars joins in for our weekly “Fools on the Hill” segment in which we dish about the ridiculous things said on the Sunday talking head shows.

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Mar 292010
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I know. You’re thinking what’s bad about sex? Well, when it comes from Republicans and Priests, it’s pretty bad. And that’s what we’ve got in the news today.  According to Daily Caller:

A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex….

West Hollywood’s newest corset, leather, and other trap door lingerie-inspired den, Voyeur, has an inescapable link to Eyes Wide Shut – women in various states of undress line the club, some hanging from the ceiling above you in nets (equipped with whips, so watch yourself), and a photo booth to document the whole thing are just the tip of the iceberg. Around the room, you can catch men and women undulating (er, dancing) in cages, the décor distinctly feels as if you’re unveiling something naughty, and you’re met with a constant stream of various erotic multimedia like film clips and risqué photography. Sorry to have gotten you all worked up at the office.

If that’s not enough to make you want to take a shower, consider the latest in the Catholic Church child abuse scandal, which is reaching all the way up to the Pope.  Just in time for Easter.  It’s enough to make you puke multi-colored eggs.

Among the stories I spoke with Howie Klein about today was his Papal piece from yesterday on DownWithTyranny.

In the second hour, after a report from Victoria Jones at the Talk Radio News Service, we dove head-first into a look at the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” that will be on the ballot in California in November.

Although the title of this piece alludes to “good drugs,” I’ll submit that there are no good drugs. But relatively speaking, pot is about as good a drug as you can get!

Stephen C. Webster of Raw Story joined us to talk about the background of the bill, and a piece he’s working on for True/Slant about a couple who’ve lost custody of their child over a pot misdemeanor.

And we wrapped up the show with a conversation with retired California Circuit Court Judge Jim Gray, also a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, to get his thoughts on the battle ahead.

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Jan 152010
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In addition to speaking with Bob Ferguson of Oxfam America, I’ll be joined by Larisa Alexandrovna, managing editor of investigative news for Raw Story. We’ll talk a bit about what’s happening in Haiti, and she’ll also fill us in on a disturbingly sad story about former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

It was a busy week in the war against prohibition. In our second hour tonight, I’ll be joined by Judge Jim Gray, retired CA Superior Court judge who’s a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and author of  Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs.”

And we’ll wrap up the week on the same subject with Raw Story‘s Stephen C. Webster, who’s responsible for the vast majority of drug war reporting at Raw Story, who’ll fill us in on where we are in this insane waste of money.

Look to your left for links to listen and/or watch the video stream live.  Calls are welcome too, at 866-303-2270 from 11pm-1am ET/8-10pm PT.

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Jan 122010
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The state of California made history today! Until today, no U.S. state legislature had ever even considered voting on a measure that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. Today, not only did the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee consider it, they voted on and passed A.B. 390!

The Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) passed the committee by a vote of 4-3, clearing the way for it to move to the Health committee before heading to the Assembly floor for a full vote.

This is huge news not only for the pot smokers of America, but for the people of California who’ve been suffering under a terrible budgetary drought. According to the LA Times, “by some estimates, California’s pot crop is a $14-billion industry, putting it above vegetables ($5.7 billion) and grapes ($2.6 billion). If so, that could mean upward of $1 billion in tax revenue for the state each year.”

And, it signals reason for optimism that that the rest of the country may soon follow suit. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana when 56% of the voters passed Prop 215 in 1996. Oregon, Washington and Alaska followed in 1998. Maine came on board in 1999. Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada legalized medical marijuana in 2000, followed by Montana and Vermont in 2004, Rhode Island in 2006, New Mexico in 2007 and Michigan in 2008. And just this week, New Jersey became the 14th state to approve medical marijuana when the state legislature approved legislation that would make it available from state-licensed dispensaries to seriously ill patients.

Already following California’s lead on dropping the medical requirement from the marijuana, voters in Washington state on Monday announced the start of a petition drive to get a legalization question on the ballot in November, and activists in Nevada are planning a similar campaign.

And the town of Breckenridge, Colorado legalized marijuana in November. The law allowing residents and tourists alike to carry up to an ounce of marijuana, along with the paraphernalia that goes along with it, with no worry of any civil or criminal penalties, went into effect on January 1. And Denver voters actually decriminalized small amounts of pot in the Mile High City, though the state law still makes possession illegal.

The United States is spending an inordinate amount of money and resources in fighting the so-called war on drugs. At a time when every state in the nation is in financial straits, this is a massive waste of taxpayer dollars– money that could certainly be better used to provide necessary services like education and health care.

In June of 2009, Congressman Barney Frank re-introduced his measure “Act to Remove Federal Penalties for Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults.”

Groups like Law Enforcement Professionals Against Prohibition even take it a step further, encouraging legalization of all drugs with this statement on their website:

After nearly four decades of fueling the U.S. policy of a war on drugs with over a trillion tax dollars and 37 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses, our confined population has quadrupled making building prisons the fastest growing industry in the United States. More than 2.2 million of our citizens are currently incarcerated and every year we arrest an additional 1.9 million more guaranteeing those prisons will be bursting at their seams. Every year we choose to continue this war will cost U.S. taxpayers another 69 billion dollars. Despite all the lives we have destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and far easier to get than they were 35 years ago at the beginning of the war on drugs. Meanwhile, people continue dying in our streets while drug barons and terrorists continue to grow richer than ever before. We would suggest that this scenario must be the very definition of a failed public policy. This madness must cease!

So, hurray for California. You know the old saying, As goes California, so goes the nation. Let’s hope that’s true… and let’s hurry!

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