A few things

I got a few quotes into a University of Maryland news story on the MD-O4 Congressional race. Good times.

If anyone is interested in seeing a budget that would knock Maryland and particularly Baltimore City back to the stone age, check out Mr. Griffith's plan. I do admire him for putting the work and thought to create this document. I disagree with many of his cuts and his plans to privatize public resources, such as public transport and parks departments.

Here are some articles warning against the privatization of public transport. This article from The University of Illinois claims that many of the problems of urban public transport would not be solved by privatization. This isn't due to the efficiency of one option over the other, but instead due to the inherent nature of current urban public transport.
The industry always has been hurt by the problem of "peaking," or the concentration of use during the morning and evening commuting hours. "The more severe the peaking, the more expensive it is to provide personnel and equipment without higher costs per passenger mile," Due wrote. "Peaking produces a high percentage of empty seats, which is noted by critics of the present system as evidence of inefficiency and thus the need for a free market, when actually it is an inherent problem of urban transit."

A single transit authority is better able to manage peaking and overcrowding, the Illinois economist argued, and the rise of "reverse commuting" during peak periods has led to the more efficient use of trains and buses in Chicago, New York and other transit-dependent cities.
That isn't to say that the MTA is a model of efficiency, but it isn't right to think that conditions would improve or even stop declining should the MTA be privatized.

The next article goes into the problems faced in England after they privatized much of their public transport.

Privatization aside, the cuts Mr. Griffith proposes would disproportionately harm the citizens of Baltimore. Privatizing the MTA could indeed lead to more efficient public transport, but that is not a given. What is a given is that prices would rise and certain lines would be removed or adversely affected. When trying to make a profit off of a struggling service, these decisions would seem unavoidable. The same could be said for parks. Mr. Griffiths' elimination of the small business development office, the division of neighborhood revitalization, and the state tobacco cessation programs all directly impact those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

There are cuts in Mr. Griffiths' plan that warrant a closer look. It is also worth noting that as a political proposal, this plan has very little that would make it appealing to any Maryland legislator. But once again, Brian was challenged, and he followed through. Making his plan a reality in Maryland would seem to be an impossibility, and for that, I suppose progressives can breathe a sigh of relief.

Drug-Related Deaths: Classification Hides the Truth

I think its a good thing that Baltimore City's Health Department is going to review the city's "drug-related deaths" over the past ten years. The problem is, "drug related deaths" in this case only include those who have died from intoxication.

The problem is being approached from a public health standpoint, which is both refreshing and troubling at the same time. While the consequences of illegal drug abuse are, in many ways, public health issues, the trade in these drugs is encompasses much more. To me, addressing one without addressing the other seems to be a shortsighted, if not ineffective strategy.

I would be very interested in some sort of study investigating if a link between the drug trade/drug addiction and the current violence in Baltimore city. How many of the shootings, stabbings, muggings and burglaries in Baltimore are drug-related? That is the question that City Hall and the Mayor should be asking if they are interested in getting to the bottom of the true effect of illegal drugs in Baltimore City.


Against Me! : A Study in Disappointment

I broke out some of my old(er) against me 7 inches over the holiday break. They were both smaller releases by small labels. At the time, Against Me! was a group of crusty kids (with roots in Towson, MD) touring basements keeping the stinking punk/anarchist tradition alive. They played all acoustic sets. They were inspiring (though it sounds cheesy to say). One of my favorite songs was the acoustic version of "Reinventing Axl Rose":

"Reinventing Axl Rose"

We want a band that plays loud and hard every night
That doesn't care how many people are counted at the door
That would travel one million miles and ask for nothing more than a plate of food and a place to rest
They'd strike chords that cut like a knife
It would mean so much more than t-shirts or a ticket stub
They'd stop at nothing short of a massacre
Everyone would leave with the memory that there was no place else in the world
And this was where they always belonged
We would dance like no one was watching
With one fist in the air
Our arena just basements and bookstores across an underground America
With this fire we could light
Just gimme a scene where the music is free
And the beer is not the life of the party
There's no need to shit talk or impress
'Cause honesty and emotion are not looked down upon
And every promise that's made and bragged
is meant if not kept
We'd do it all because we have to, not because we know why
Beyond a gender, race, and class, we could find what really holds us back
Let's make everybody sing
That they are the beginning and ending of everything
That we all are stronger than everything they taught us that we should fear
Idealistic and possibly unrealistic? Yes. Honest and inspired? For sure.

In the following years Against Me! made a surprising transition. They moved from the small labels and 7 inches to Fat Wreck Chords and then to Sire Records. They ride in a tour bus these days, play rock clubs and music festivals. They are a different band. I believe this in a recent single. I heard it on the Sirius "PUNK" channel and had to turn it off after one chorus.

"Unprotected Sex With Multiple Partners"

Everyone's a critic, but hey they really respect your talent.
Have your manager call my manager, and we'll make records together.
At this level of success in entertainment, there are certain connotations.
It's a "you give we take" relation.
No the kids wouldn't understand it.
Come on now, how long do think this is really gonna last?
How long can you hold their attention before they move on to the next band?
On the inside.
On the inside.
On the inside.
Do you wanna know how it feels on the inside?
On the inside.
On the inside.
On the inside.
Do you wanna know how it feels on the inside?

Coordinate the marketing, label, publicity, touring.
Consult on, timing and presentation.
Go ahead put this in context.
It's 3 points on production, 15% to management,
10% to the agent, 5% to legal representation.
We call it our insurance plan to stretch the inevitable as far as we can.
Gotta make your money while you got the chance,
do whatever it takes to sell it.

On the inside.
On the inside.
On the inside.
Do you wanna know how it feels on the inside?
On the inside.
On the inside.
On the inside.
Do you wanna know how it feels on the inside?
(Let's go)
Just how desperate can we be?
Go buy our record and see.
Just how angry can we seem?
Go buy our record and see.
Just how fucked up can it get?
Go buy our record and see.
Just how much can we bleed?
We're completely irrelevant on LP and compact disc.

On the inside.
On the inside.
On the inside.
Do you wanna know how it feels on the inside?
Actually, I don't want to know what its like on the inside. I'm not there, and Against Me! never used to be. The complaining about the ills of fame are hollow. The talk about a loss of relevancy is enough to induce laughter. Against Me! have seen this "dissatisfaction with our major rock career" situation before play out with numerous bands. They also had seen examples of ways to increase distribution and exposure without giving away autonomy (Fugazi and Dischord Records come to mind). Against Me! made their choice and now they are complaining about all the strings attached to that money they are rolling in. I don't feel sorry for them in the least.

Sorry to my readers looking for political content. I had to post this somewhere. And if you are looking for some solid music with a political message, check out Fucked Up and The Hope Conspiracy.



I know that conservative bloggers' have an obsession with the size of liberal genitalia. They love theorizing about it like liberals love blaming Republicans for all the ills of society. I should expect it at every turn, but for some reason it still surprises me. This time it is the wonderful FN whose "testicular fortitude" is being called into question. This is such a classy rhetorical strategy.

On the Same Page

It happens.


Trade this Debt for this other Debt

Here's to bright futures.

I own no credit cards, because I know I wouldn't be able to control myself. These companies are predatory little bastards, thats for sure. I love it the most when I get a loan statement from CITI in the mail along with a pre-approved application for a CITI platinum credit card. They could save paper and just send one letter offering to take my subsidized loan with fixed low interest and transfer it to an unsubsidized, high interest loan. Same thing, really.
Many students then must file for bankruptcy, wrecking their credit ratings and jeopardizing their chances of pursuing graduate school and buying houses at reasonable mortgage rates, if at all.
And we all know how delightful Republicans and Corporate Democrats have made the bankruptcy process (if you aren't a rich corporation). And Brian wants to discuss how Republicans are the party of the "working class". Laughable.


The Future of Drug Treatment Hampered by Insurance Costs, Red Tape

Via The Baltimore City Paper. Buprenorphine is often the best hope for Heroin addicts in recovery. It is particularly adept at removing the bulk of the painful withdrawal pangs which drive addicts to use. I personally know addicts who have used this drug and it has changed their lives completely, from addicts to the happy, productive people they once were. Of course, red tape and insurance costs are keeping the drug from those who need it most, poor drug addicts in our nations cities. Universal health care that includes drug recovery would go a long way to solving these problems.


More Kunstler

A voice of reason. He's the second interview after the Brit talking up The Golden Compass.

Ah Yes, The "Ivy League"

Winners... sociopaths, whatever.


Tejada Gone

Finally, something to be happy about. Miguel Tejada has been traded to the astros for a whole bunch of young guys. Don't listen to Roch, this is a great trade. Tejada is only going to get worse as he ages. It will be error central in Houston at SS, and the Stros will be lucky if Tejada bests his 18 HR from 2007. Both Camden and Minute Maid Park (hahahah, formerly ENRON park) are hitter's parks, but the fact remains that Tejada has been in decline for the past two years.

While Luke Scott and Troy Patton are the "names" being focused on, check this kid out:

Dennis Sarfate, RHP
Age: 26

• Career numbers: 1-0, 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings as a reliever. He's struck out 25 and walked five.

• Appeared in seven games last season, going 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA. He struck out 14 and walked one in 8 1/3 innings.

• Was drafted in the ninth round of the 2001 amateur draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.
I like the look of those numbers, and our bullpen needs all the help it can get. This trade follows McPhail's plan of making the team younger and cheaper. If he can move Mora for some more prospects like this, and then Bedard for a solid bat or two, I will be thoroughly impressed.


Brian Griffith's Bravado has Reached Epic Levels

Are we in Jr. High Brian? Are you going to give a me purple-nurple and take my lunch money? Maybe give me a wedgie or throw some spitballs? While debating a conservative parody might be interesting, I think I will take a pass.

I mean, you got what you wanted already, right? You got to humiliate several people you have never met. Readers of this blog are familiar with conservative wet dreams of liberal humiliation. I would appreciate if you would LEAVE ME OUT OF YOURS in the future.


Rock vs. Powder

A baby step towards undoing decades of horrible drug policy.

GOP: The Party for the "Working Class"

A ridiculous claim to be sure. As an Urban Liberal who makes less than $30,000 a year (part of the "working class" I suppose) I disagree. And seeing as the argument on both sides of this issue is purely semantic and drawn from partisan interpretations of what "the working class wants/needs", I suppose my argument and the "proof" is as good as any.

So, which party has helped the working man more? The right answer is neither. Both parties play to the interests of the rich first, the middle class next, and the poor in the end. This is a Democrat saying this.

So when a Democrat like Hillary of Dodd (Mr. Big Banking) says they are for the working class, I roll my eyes. But when Romney tries to say the same, its hard to keep from laughing.

Basically, no one has a claim to the votes of the working class. Democrats have a tenuous one, one that could be strengthened if they would stand up to their backers. Republicans have a much longer road to travel to win back workers. Of course, Republicans will always attract the racists, the gun nuts, the fag-bashers, etc. and be able to claim a large amount of white, male, working class votes. But believe me, it ain't for economics.

Ok Mark & Brian, commence the jiggling.


More Police BS

The injustice never ends with police thugs. In this case, an officer assaulted a college professor, but claimed the exact opposite. Unfortunately for him, there was videotape showing his thuggish beating of an older man who in no way menaced him.

But did the officer get reprimanded? No, of course not. You see, the officer has this strange disease that makes him think people are punching him. I am not making this up.
[The officer's lawyer] convinced the jury that his client suffers from a disability that causes a sensation of pressure if he moves his arm a certain way. According to the attorney, that's what made him feel like he was punched in the chest, and that's the reason he punched back.
"Justice" prevails again.


More Fun in Our Police State

New York City:
Careful what you pick up in the subway _ it could lead to your arrest.

Straphanger Carlos Alayo said he learned that lesson when he picked up what he thought was a derelict wallet laying on a subway platform bench.

He said he intended to find its owner and return it, but as he went to get on the G train, he said he was stopped by police.

The 32-year-old had been ensnared in Operation Lucky Bag, an initiative from the New York City Police Department to lay decoys _ shopping bags, purses, backpacks or wallets _ around the subway system under the watchful gaze of officers who wait to see what passersby will do.

The decoys often contain real credit cards issued under pseudonyms to the police department. Theft of a credit card is grand larceny, a felony that could lead to jail time.
I can guarantee you this, the twisted individual who created this entrapment scheme will see no consequences. Heck, they will probably get a nice plaque calling them a "hero".


RIP Pimp C

Pimp C, one half of the legendary UGK, has died at the age of 33. Its cold outside.


Speed Cameras

A terrible idea. Ehrlich, despite my problems with him, was against these state funded spying machines. They are simply revenue generators for the State, and have little to do with safety.


Shorter Mike Steele

"How dare Governor O'Malley clean up the mess I played a significant part in creating."

More whining from the perennial loser. Steele gushes about the Ehrlich Administration's "successes" and falsely claims that they never raised taxes. Of course, Ehrlich/Steele raised taxes, fees, and tolls by nearly $3 billion. None of the foaming-at-the-mouth anti-tax republicans mention this fact.

Here's a prediction. If we ever have a Governor Steele, he will raise taxes too.


Police BPD Commissioner Bealfeld

Check out this story on BPD Commissioner Bealfeld. At least he talks a good game. First, he agrees that the drug war is a failure:
"Can anyone in this country say the war on drugs has been a success? If they can, I really don't know who they are. ... We've had victories here and there. But have we solved the drug problem in America?"
He claims he would trade "drug arrests" for arrests of violent criminals. I figured there was probably some overlap, but I will defer to the expert.

As for his take on the cultural issues that create crime, I think he goes a bit off base.
"I can tell you this ... without trepidation: We need real investments - and there have been incremental investments - there needs to be real, real work on drug treatment in this city. That has to be done. And we need to come to grips with that. We need real treatment programs, and they have to be effective. That is as important as holding me accountable for arresting more drug offenders. It can't be one or the other

We can't lose sight of the single biggest thing affecting this city, and that is this culture of violence. We will do drug enforcement. We will look at murders. We will look at thefts. We will do that. But we have to move a comprehensive strategy on focusing on violent offenders. You have to admit there's a gang situation here, and then you have to develop strategies to move forward on that. You have to recognize there's a mindset about carrying guns in this city."
Emphasis mine. Yes, there is a gang situation, and a "culture of violence", but aren't these things all connected to something? Why is there a mindset about carrying guns in this city? What mindset permits such violence? I think that the commissioner should consider further how intrinsic the drug trade is to the current street mentality.

Either way, go and read the whole article. Mr. Bealfeld is certainly an improvement , and his willingness to address the overzealous arrests of his department is refreshing. Best of luck.


To My Conservative Readers: Have a Safe Trip

To all my conservative readers who will no doubt be leaving the state after our nominal tax increase passes, I wish you all the best. Safe travels.

To help with your transition, here is a chart of the tax burden by state. I hear Alaska is BEAUTIFUL this time of year (and so is their tax rate, lowest in the nation at 6.6%). Oklahoma also looks promising. From what I hear from friends who have lived there, its sort of a hellhole of ignorance, strip-malls, highways and mega-churches, but that is right up your alley (so is their nationwide low tax burden of only 27.8% after adding federal taxes)!

But really, who needs a federal tax that high anyway? I recommend you just leave this whole stinking liberal country for the beautiful shores of Greece (income tax of .6%) or Mexico (income tax of 3%) Two lovely places, and such great infrastructure and social institutions. We all know Mexico's citizens love it there.

So really, I ask my conservative readers to kindly "grow a pair" and leave the state and possibly the country. You have numerous options that are better than your horrible existence (can we even call it EXISTENCE!?) in the tyrannical state of Maryland.

Update: Yeah Michelle, you can leave too.


A Pit of Vipers

AKA, the Examiner Reader Commentary section.

Its really a hateful little party over there. Lets see, poor people who use government services are "parasites". These "parasites" are the reason we have to raise taxes. Lots of talk about "leaving" Maryland. Sounds like a plan. Accusations of "communism", "socialism" and "liberalism" abound. Its amazing how many of the commenters DESPISE the poor, who they for some reason believe are destined to live in luxury under this tax plan, while they, the rich, will be bled completely dry, forced into the streets.

Remember, when someone wants to raise taxes, the only proper response is to call them a communist and claim the sky is falling. For some quality examples, check the comments here.

10:19 AM MST on Mon., Nov. 12, 2007 re: "House passes $1.4 billion in tax increases"

BG said:
It's funny to see holier than thou liberal Dems lecture the rest of us. They tell us we have less right to KEEP OUR MONEY than gov't has to SIEZE IT. "Gov't needs it" they say. Yes- to pander to the ever-growing underclass their policies grew in the first place. And to grow GOV'T ITSELF, which they see as the efficient, just provider of a solution to every known human condition, if only enough $ were available. History will eventually see them for what they are- arrogant "vote farmers" who cultivate power by spreading pseudo-intellectual manure across an expanding wasteland of neighborhoods that their policies have worked since the 1960s to destroy. They care not, however, because being a progressive lets them see themselves as they wish- morally superior, enlightened, selfless benefactors of society. It's all BS though, and here's the proof- If the social result (not power & gov't growth) is the goal, why don't they simply donate themselves, and encourage others to do the sa

3 agree | 2 disagree
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How nice. AAANNNND:

8:01 AM MST on Mon., Nov. 12, 2007 re: "House passes $1.4 billion in tax increases"

Examiner Reader said:
Wow! Methinks Stuart M. Davies is a bit misguided. I, for one, am educated enough to recognize an ad hominem attack when I see one. (for you stu,that means making a personal attack against your detractors because you have no other means to argue your point) These tax hikes are clearly NOT in the best interest of ALL. They ARE in the interest the welfare/nanny state that maryland is becoming. They are in the interest of fat, bloated, inefficient govt bureaucracies, and they are in the interest of the lazy, uneducated, unmotivated, unwilling to work and support themselves government-teet-suckers who comprise more and more of the maryland voting electorate as hard working, self-supporting folks (like myself) make a run for the border. Give me a break - "people oriented"??? You are right about one thing: MD is a Dem state. Losing population, setting murder records, leading in teen preg, syphilis cases... And now record high taxes. All things for a good liberal democrat to be proud of.

3 agree | 2 disagree
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So classy. And of course, it wouldn't be complete without some good liberal feminization:

1:49 PM MST on Thu., Nov. 8, 2007 re: "O�Malley: Most will pay more"

Examiner Reader said:
I love how liberals are now suddenly "progressives". Funny how they choose to change names after they have created such a negative association with the word liberal in the minds of voters. Why not be bold and honest and call yourselves by your true name - socialists. From each according to his ability to each according to his need. Sounding more and more like the rhetoric from the "progressives". I'd choose self-reliance over governmental interference any day of the week. Guess that makes me a knuckle dragging neanderthal. Maybe that explains why I don't appreciate that she-male statue infront of Penn Station. Gosh, if I could only get that surgery to help me be more progressive. What's is called? Oh yeah, it's a lobotomy...

14 agree | 10 disagree
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And one last one for good measure:

12:37 PM MST on Thu., Nov. 8, 2007 re: "O�Malley: Most will pay more"

25 M Who works hard! said:
600k Home? I wish. SUV? Hell no! Don't be such an IDIOT! If i made that much i wouldn't be making this. I'm married and her and I work. We save our money for only what is needed. She has a '92 saturn that needs to be replaced. I have a old used car im still trying to pay off. I work hard for my money. I condsider my self Middleclass/Upper Lower class. You are the type of person who is saying i need to be payed more to sit on my but, you give reasons for the poor to stay poor and not work to become something. Why should they try to improve themselves when we have IDIOTS like you willing to take from the ppl that have worked hard to make the money they have and give it to someone who knows if they are paid to be useless. All i know is that I'm not going to Hell like most of the Democrats.

14 agree | 12 disagree
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Your tax package opponents, in their own words.


Hateful Conservative Alert: Streiff and "Whiny Little Girls"

You can always tell when a movement conservative is upset. Their favorite tactic when cut to the quick is to question the manhood and "toughness" of their opponent. Hence, we see Strieff at Red Maryland referring to our Comptroller as a "whiny little girl" for his opposition to slot machine gambling.

In the conservative mind, the non-conservative, particularly the vocal one, is not only wrong, but effeminate. Of course, it is assumed that someone who "whines like a little girl" has no place in politics. Indeed, the desire of conservatives to "feminize" their opponents is widespread, see Anne Coulter's comments on John Edwards, the constant chorus of "cut and run" we heard months ago, and now our current example. One needs look no further than John McCain and Mitt Romney to see the GOP inverse of strong man worship. John McCain will follow Osama to hell. Romney will bomb Iran into dust.

To be fair, in the past Red Maryland has written kindly of the Comptroller, though only because in him they see a chance for a primary challenge to O'Malley from the left, possibly creating a chance for a Republican to creep back into the Governor's Mansion. When Franchot turns his guns on a pet Republican proposal, all bets are off and the rush to call a state official a "whiny little girl."

I have certainly written my share of angry posts (cursing and all), but I cannot recall a time when I felt it necessary to denigrate a political opponent in such a grade-school manner. Even when I claimed that folks at "Red Maryland had their heads up their asses", I didn't stoop so low. I can assume that folks at Red Maryland do have heads and do have asses. A rather common phrase meant to imply that someone is wrong. Streiff is doing more than implying the Comptroller is wrong, he is implying he is weak, childish, and not up to do the important mens' work of politics. Its a more loaded term, and conservatives use it knowingly and effectively.

Rather than examine the worth of the Comptroller's words, they dismiss them through petty insult.

In Strieff's post we see a common feature of the American Conservative, the desire to feminize any and all opponents, particularly those who speak the loudest in opposition to their party's goals. At best, it is desperately comical. At worst, it is offensive and derogatory.

Some Inspiration

Representative Barney Frank, progressive hero, fighting to pass the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect homosexuals from workplace discrimination.

The applause is well deserved. When Democrats stand up for what they believe in, it can be inspiring to us all. This bill passed the house (though even if it does pass the Senate, I am sure the bigot in chief will veto it). More and better Democrats (though its tough to get anyone better than Barney).


Its Stories like This

That cause my teenage distrust and distaste for police to bubble up again.

Police covered up death of pedestrian run over by patrol car, family says

- A Finksburg man did not commit suicide by leaping in front of a state trooper’s cruiser about a year ago, as police had reported, but was killed after the car sped onto the shoulder and hit him at nearly 85 mph, according to an accident investigation.

A state police accident investigation report, obtained by The Examiner, shows that Randy Rakes, 38, died after being hit by the cruiser while crossing Route 140 on Nov. 28, 2006.


“They have covered this up from the beginning,” Blizzard said. “I could have understood — accidents happen — but I can’t understand how you can take a man lying in the gutter and trash him. They’re supposed to be protecting us, and they’re the biggest crooks.”

The crash investigation report shows Derr was speeding nearly 30 mph over the 55-mph limit and never touched his brakes.


How to Close the Budget Deficit without Raising the Sales Tax or Income Tax

A legalized recreational marijuana market would easily raise the 1.7 billion we need and then some. A plan similar to California's, medical pot available with a prescription, would probably raise enough to at least hold off on increasing the sales tax.

Instead, the State of Maryland will end up not only wasting billions locking up drug users (a full 18% of our public safety budget goes to incarcerating criminals, a large percentage of which have committed non-violent drug crimes), but also legalizing a much less profitable and much more detrimental vice, slot machine gambling.

If state lawmakers are willing to send slots to referendum, why not send medical marijuana to referendum as well? Perhaps they are too afraid of what might win, and what might lose at the ballot box?

Just watch this video from Drew Carey and then tell me I am crazy.


Sad but True

Chris Floyd on our Disastrous Democrats:

So this is where we've come to, one year after the people spoke at the ballot box, fighting through government propaganda, media distortions, pundit scorn, terrorist scares -- and the Karl Rove vote-skewing, vote-suppressing, vote-stealing machine -- to deliver a strong call for a new direction, for an end to war and torture and tyranny and corruption and lies. They believed -- perhaps for the last time -- that their vote might make a difference, that the "consent of the governed" might still retain some meaning.

So they turned to the only serious alternative the system provided: the Democrats. And this is what they got: more war, more torture, more tyranny, more corruption, more lies.

What should the people believe now? What should they hope for from the system now? And what new nightmares await them in the second year of this perverse union between a power-drunk president and a cowardly, corrupted, complicit "opposition"?



Victory for Death Penalty Opponents

Good news.

The Supreme Court stopped the execution of Virginia death row inmate Christopher Scott Emmett yesterday, a move that legal experts said might signal a nationwide halt to lethal injections until the justices decide next year whether the procedure amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.


It's not that its harassment

It's that you are wrong. (And don't misunderstand, it is still thuggish harassment.)

Update: The reason that you and other conservatives are wrong on the issue of the Frosts is because you are not making realistic judgments regarding their financial situation.

Take the quibble over private schools for example. It's well known among those in the Baltimore area that many of our public schools are not up to par, and that many parents, regardless of financial concerns, do whatever is necessary to get their children a quality education. There is nothing wrong with parents making the best choices for their children.

On to the issue of Mr. Frost's home, which has elicited some strange comments from conservatives. They seem to care more about the square footage of the home, or the fact that a completely different home was sold nearby for a hefty sum. They then go on to argue that Mr. Frost should have sold his home, or borrowed against it to pay his children's outrageous hospital bills. What a wonderful recipe for financial disaster.

They didn't just suggest that he sell his home however, but also that he sell his business, his automobile, and pull his now partially disabled children out of private school. Yes, instead of use a government program, conservatives suggested that Mr. Frost take the steps toward financial disaster. It would be nothing new for a person's medical bills to drive them into poverty, but for conservatives to offer it as a valid and, dare I say, noble act when compared to taking advantage of a widely used government program, is just silly.

You see, the Frosts today are still successful, contributing members of society. I wish Baltimore City had more of them, and if SCHIP helped them avoid financial disaster, then the program is a success. If expanding it will help other families, I support expanding it.

Now, are there problems with the bill? Yeah, the tobacco tax, a declining revenue source, is not a good way to fund this. However, I don't see those arguments from conservatives anymore. All I see is an angry misunderstanding about the reality of living in Baltimore City while raising four children, when in an instant, a car accident changes your lives forever.


"Little Cigars" Are Popular for Some Reason

I cannot, for the life of me, fathom the reason why. I mean, this story has totally rolled me over, and blunted my perceptions. Why, O WHY would young people be buying these little cigars, that can so easily be opened, drained of the tobacco within, and replaced with "higher quality tobacco". Some quality journalism going on here.

Health officials say that Black & Milds are likely inhaled like a cigarette, as opposed to smoked with minimal inhalation like a cigar. They can be smoked, extinguished, then smoked again. And they can be repacked with marijuana or other substances.

Theres the one line of reality in a rather long article.


This must be a joke

Via the Examiner:

Church group opposes slots at racetrack

BALTIMORE - National Security Agency employees could sell intelligence secrets to support gambling habits if slots opened at Laurel Park racetrack, says a church group that opposes legalized gambling.


If anyone at said church group has internet access, I encourage them to go to this website, type the terms "online gambling" in the little box, and hit return.

As a supporter of the legalization of drugs, I cannot in good conscience, sit here and advocate the continued illegality of other vices. However, there are about 1,000,000 other reasons to oppose slots, particularly from a religious perspective, that this group could have centered upon. But hey, national security is so hot right now.


Travis Henry may have Smoked Pot


“Have to refer you to the League, we have no comment,” general manager Ted Sundquist told The Associated Press in response to an e-mail inquiry about a Denver TV report that Henry had tested positive for marijuana.

Just wait until Henry (inhaling smoke from a burning plant) is casually compared to Mike Vick (murdered animals and gambled illegally) and the Patriots (violated the spirit of the game by cheating). With all the physical abuse these athletes endure and the debilitating mental ailments that later result from such abuse , its a wonder they all aren't smoking MJ.


Sick to Death of "Galas"

I know, I know, candidates need to make money, and one way they do is by holding exorbitantly expensive "support galas".

I wish they would take a financial poll of supporters at the outset of a campaign and just not send these "invitations" to me, because they are thoroughly depressing. No matter how much I support Donna Edwards, it makes me sad that to eat with her I have to cough up $500. And for that $500, I would get to be a "supporter". Aren't I already a supporter by being on her email list and blogging in support of her? Can I show her act blue receipts for my paltry contributions and, I dunno, at least bus the tables?

Greenwald: The America Bush Built

He's right, as usual. Every time we accept the reckless lawbreaking of this Administration, our national character is demeaned.

Every time our representatives give an inch to this president we move closer to becoming a nation of torturers and eavesdroppers, dictators and murderers.

Police Attack "Main Weapons" Used in Drug Trade

Which apparently are, you guessed it, illegal guns. Thats right, the main "weapon" of the DRUG trade, according to police, is somehow illegal guns, not illegal drugs. Really, how do these police ever expect to accomplish anything when they are starting out with incorrect assumptions.

Does anyone believe for a second that even if all illegal guns(heck, even legal guns) were removed from the equation that murder, crime, and poverty would somehow be lessened? People would be stabbing each other over drug real estate. The market for crossbows and other clandestine instruments of war would skyrocket (or more likely, guns still will exist, only ALL of them will be illegal).

Its not the illegal guns that are causing the crime problem.

“Obviously, there’s a disconnect and there’s a failure in the criminal justice system,” Ross said of the numbers. “I don’t understand why they’re being released if there’s a gun crime.”

See, I don't understand why "they" are being arrested if there is a "drug crime." Criminologist Jeffery Ian Ross gets close to the answer:

Ross said that the situation likely will remain unchanged unless there are more job opportunities for young men in Baltimore.

But there’s a catch, Ross said: The jobs have to pay well.

“The drug trade is very lucrative,” he said. “Nobody is going to give up a flexible, lucrative means of supporting themselves to get a Mickey Mouse job.”

As long as drugs remain illegal, they remain more lucrative to the participants in the drug trade than any job you could offer. I can see the job description targeted at these drug dealers now:

Looking to hire Sales Staff immediately, no experience required, no education necessary. Tax free income of $600-1,000 a day. Set your own hours and hire and fire (perhaps literally) your own staff at will. Motivated employees can freelance to earn extra pay. Work from home or withing walking distance. Simply buy direct from our distributors, no advertising or sales experience necessary. This stuff sells itself!

I have a prediction for Baltimore City and for America. The "chaos" is going to continue.

Update: It looks like a bunch of new jobs just opened up! I wonder how many man hours went into locking these 8-9 people up for being effective capitalists? Not like it matters, because all that work was useless. There are no addicts who will go without heroin tonight in Baltimore, as I am sure Mr. Brewer's corners were filled with new dealers hours after his arrest.

Clothesline Project Goes A Bit Too Far

I am big fan of the clothesline project. When the project would come to Towson University, it was always a moving event, one that could easily bring tears and contemplation from anyone in the audience. Hundreds of t-shirts, decorated by rape and sexual assault victims, are hung in a public area. I hope to upload some photos of an event that came to Towson a few years ago when I get home. It is truly a sight to behold.

But I can't agree with students who are protesting to be allowed to place the names of ALLEGED rapists on their t-shirts. The key here is "alleged". Convicted I have no real issue with, but the issue here is that these people who could be listed as sexual criminals have not been found guilty of anything. The correct course of action for the victims would be to go to the police (though I do understand the difficulty and often inefficacy of such a strategy).

Futhermore, the clothesline project is powerful not because of the names of potential rapists or abusers, but because of the collective outrage, disgust, and unity displayed by the hundreds of shirts created by anonymous victims. What would be a real shame is the clothesline project being shut down, or cast into a dark corner, due to a universities endorsement (at least in legal terms) of slanderous speech.


Mikulski and Cardin have lost their minds

Both voted for the Lieberman/Kyl "Lets get ready to go to war with Iran" Amendment.

As of today, these people certainly do not represent me. I encourage you to call both of these turncoats and tell them to try acting like DEMOCRATS for once.

Cardin, Benjamin L.- (202) 224-4524

Mikulski, Barbara A. - (202) 224-4654

DO NOT bother with the web form. Call them directly, and call them often. As Todd Beeton said in the link above, this is becoming a disturbing trend.

"The Blacks are Coming!"

Disturbing to some folks, apparently. Honestly, what is the message here?


Thomas F. Schaller Appreciation Post

One of Maryland's best resources, Thomas F. Schaller on why Democrats are wasting their time trying to win the white NASCAR vote.

His point is important, because if you trace all the reasons that the Democrats have been caving on important legislation lately, I am sure it boils down to not wanting to offend "the down-home, blue-collar, white male voter." What Schaller says is nothing new or groundbreaking, but its amazing how many Democrats still refuse to follow his advice.

I am kicking myself right now for not going to UMBC for undergrad, just to have Mr. Schaller as a professor.



Everyone looking for some good TV, check out CSPAN right now. There is a "huge rally" where some guy just called those who want to withdrawal from Iraq "communists". This is the national rally for "Move America Forward". There are less than 500 people at this "national rally".



Open Left: Some good Points About Net Neutrality

In an article on net neutrality over that Open Left, Matt Stoller makes a great point about why net neutrality provisions are necessary, and also notes a situation in which they would be less necessary.

After all, net neutrality is really just a regulatory solution to a lack of competition in broadband markets. If you introduce real competition, there's less of a problem with net neutrality anymore. Art Brodsky in his latest amazing column compared the choices you get in this country, which usually boils down to two providers at most, such as Verizon or Comcast, to the choices you get in a country like England that has a sane policy of 'open access' for its internet infrastructure.

Stoller then links to a guide on internet options from the UK. Its important to understand that the same companies fighting against net neutrality are also fighting against the increased competition they would receive as long as networks remain open.


"There is nothing good to say"

So why say anything at at all? I think the best part is when Griffiths decries partisan hatred after implying that Democrats and Republicans involved in the Iraq hearings today are treasonous. Your modern republican party, attempting to string thoughts together.

Remember their memories.

I have no problem with partisanship on any day of the year. Of course, I would hardly call a bi-partisan hearing in which the top general in Iraq and the Ambassador get to explain the situation to the American people, the ones who are funding this war, partisanship.


"Experts" Discuss Gangs

Experts in perpetuating gang violence had a little meeting on the 8th. Everyone is very serious and concerned.

Frank Clark, director of the Gang Intervention and Investigation Unit for the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, told his audience at a Catonsville library to be aware of large groups of young adults wearing red or blue colors, and that graffiti with five- or six-point symbols and numbers arranged in a certain order are generally signs of gang activity.


"We do have a growing problem in the state, and my biggest concern is the kids that it's affecting," Clark said. "We've got kids aspiring to be gang members. We've got gang members in Maryland as young as 7 years old. It's an issue."

Did you hear that? Its official, ITS AN ISSUE!

What should we do, oh wise "experts"?

In city schools, officials have formulated a safety plan that includes initiatives to combat gangs, primarily in middle and high schools. Last spring, officials identified about 30 city schools that have gangs in them. This year's school budget includes an additional $1 million for more school police officers and $1.8 million for more hall monitors, along with a Gang Resistance Education and Training program in schools identified as having gang problems.

That should definitely solve the problem, more cops in schools. We all know that gangs are primarily a fun schoolyard activity. Bloods all over the Baltimore area are literally packing their bags because the local middle school is getting another rent-a-cop.

"Gangs" are not a problem created out of nothing. They are the product of poverty, weak family units, and the massive profitability of criminal enterprise, particularly the illegal drug trade. Was the drug trade mentioned ONCE is this meeting of supposed "experts"? Perhaps, but it seems any discussion it warranted was not worth printing. Can we really take this analysis of gangs seriously when it discounts such a large component of gangs and gang violence? I think not.


Oh Dear

How does the person who wrote this not delete it immediately out of embarrassment? Just when I thought it couldn't get any weirder, he takes Godwin's law to new level of ridiculousness.
Like the Nazis of 1930s Germany a small but vocal group of gays intimidate large law firms with bully tactics. Ex-gays describe the gay movement as a cult, that recruits, and then punishes anyone who tries to escape or resist them.

John Garza, the Rockville attorney for CRC, Family Leader Network and PFOX stated that he “knows who wins in the end,” that bully tactics, hate, intolerance of religious people, and spreading lies will keep the large law firm from future success. “Like Hitler and his thugs, the gay agenda will have its day and then, good will triumph over evil” Garza said.

Your modern Republican Party in action.


CATO: America’s Longest War

The CATO blog takes a look at a new article in Foreign Policy magazine calling for drug legalization.

Sadly, when it comes to drug legalization, both Democrats and Republicans are downright pig headed. Powerful police unions have a lot to do with this. Without the drug war, police budgets would be slashed to hell. It takes a lot of work and money to do the worming into people's lives necessary to arrest drug criminals, at least drug criminals that "matter".

Show me someone who supports drug prohibition and I will show you someone who is horribly misinformed.

"Conservatives like seeing people make money. "

Yes, yes they do. I never claimed they didn't. I claimed that they only like seeing the already well off making more money. Griffiths doesn't dispute this fact, because he cannot.

Conservatives passed huge tax cuts which were intended to "trickle down" to all of us dirty poor people. The logic generally follows that corporations and rich individuals, because they have more money, will invest a portion of that into paying their workers better salaries. This is how, in the conservative economic plan, poor people "are able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps" or something colloquial like that.

Of course, it rarely happens that way.

In the case of the Stadium workers in question, Maryland gives HUGE tax breaks, loans, and subsidies to these stadiums, their owners, etc. The owners, players, most likely even the concession workers are paid relatively well. However, because the workers who clean the stadium are contract workers, they don't get the feel the success. The "trickle down" even if it does exist, has no chance of reaching these people, unless we assume the contracting company has a change of heart and decides to pass on a bit of the millions they made in lucrative deals to clean the massive M&T Bank stadium and Camden Yards.

I suppose in that case, Griffiths wouldn't mind the employees getting raises. But then, isn't the whole Reagan "trickle down" theory dependent upon corporations passing on their tax savings on to the workers and consumers? Or is it just a plan to bankrupt the federal government while giving a nifty little handout to the already rich.

Most State sanitation workers make much more than the $9/hr the stadium workers are begging for. I believe both sets of workers do difficult and necessary jobs, whereas Griffith's sees their work as similar in value to Taco Bell/KFC workers (who nationally make 7.65 last I checked). Now, if State sanitation workers make what Griffiths refers to as "artificially inflated salaries" (because these salaries are set by the government, that makes them "artificial" in Griffiths mind), why hasn't the stadium already, according to his economic laws, had to pay their workers increased salaries?

Clearly, if we pay the people who clean the stadiums in Maryland more money, it will create a trash-pick-up-workers crisis of epic proportions. Orioles tickets will cost $75 for nosebleeds, and Ravens tickets will require a deposit of your first born. People all over Maryland, will have to swim through piles of trash, as all sanitation workers will have to be fired. In fact, such an act could plunge the whole state into poverty. Griffiths really thinks this to be true:

Of course what Kujan fails to realize is that the artificial inflation by government of the salaries of the stadium workers creates an unequal environment for other businesses.

An unequal environment for who, other owners of professional sports stadiums in Maryland that need to have them cleaned by outsourced workers?

That means if government mandates the inflation of salaries by $3 an hour, those businesses either will hire less skilled workers or will need to inflate their wages by $3. And that price gets passed onto the consumer. That creates inflation. That diminishes purchasing power. And that means nothing really changes in the end other than creating more, not less, poverty.

Yes, an inflation crisis because people MIGHT have to pay more for Orioles/Ravens tickets. Its laugh out loud worthy.


Then again Kujan proves why liberals can't run government; a basic lack of understanding of economic environments:

Just look what years of liberal policy and has done to salaries in Maryland. Maryland liberals are so terrible at understanding economic environments that they created the best one in the whole country.

Maryland Democratic Party "Gala": No Poor Allowed

I dunno, I think it might be nice to do this:

Help us celebrate our success together and show your support for the Maryland Democratic Party's commitment to the promise of One Maryland.

Join us on October 1, 2007 as we gather with Democrats from across our great state to prepare for the vast challenges before us. We are a strong party. Together we can grow our numbers here and in Washington. Don't just watch us do it. Have some fun and be a part of building a better future as One Maryland shows America how to get the job done.

I am a Democrat. I worked on the 2006 co-ordinated campaign, as did many other young people. I donated what small amounts I could afford. I blogged in support of Democratic candidates. I would actually like to attend this little Gala.

But tickets start at $250 PER PERSON.

Lets see... go to the food store and eat for a month or go see Martin O'Malley and eat for one night. I think the choice is clear for thousands of Maryland Democrats.

I understand the necessity of events like this, but if this is truly a CELEBRATION, hold it at a state park and make it free, or at least a price anyone can afford.

Otherwise, call it the FUNDRAISING dinner that it obviously is.

I'm Someone's Favorite!



Dan Gainor: Asshole

Like so.

On workers who pick up trash at Maryland Stadiums (which only exist due to massive state subsidies) wanting the ability to actually LIVE on their earnings.

The United Workers might mean well, but it labors under the misconception that government should make unskilled labor something it’s not — high-priced employment.

$9.25 hr is not high priced labor. Its extremely low priced labor. High priced labor would be $40 million a year spread over 6 people who cannot even do their job, IE the Orioles bullpen.

High priced labor is Peter Angelos raking in millions every year while still failing to field a competitive team.

Andrey Bundley made a great point about investment in the City during the radio debate yesterday. He said that the city should only subsidize investment in companies which promise to bring quality paying jobs for Baltimore City citizens. Otherwise, why should we help you set up in our city? Of course, the Stadiums bring in millions in revenue to the City every year, so that is not the issue.

The stadiums in Baltimore are massive money makers both for their owners and for the City. Why shouldn't they be at least paying their workers enough to live?

Gainor, in his fervor to put down working people assumes the exact opposite of what will happen if these wages are raised.

One ad showed a restaurant looking for a dishwasher and paying $8 an hour. Another firm was looking for a fiscal accounts clerk and paying just $12.55 an hour. While that’s more than the stadium, the clerking job required two years’ experience. Even the Maryland Zoo was paying just $7.25 to $8 an hour for part-timers.

All of those companies and organizations would have to compete under a new pay scale if United Workers wins. Too bad, according to Rosenthal.

“That’s an issue the state would have to figure out,” he said.

Those companies would have to compete against ridiculously high wage scales for totally unskilled work. Many might go out of business or fire low-wage earners, creating more homeless people and, possibly, more day laborers.

First, those companies would in no way be affected by raising the salaries of a particular group of workers at Camden Yards. An apparently every restaurant, zoo, and "firm" would go out of business in Maryland if 11 people get a $3 raise.

I also don't see how "day laborers" are now lower on Gainor's "'EWWWW POOR PEOPLE' scale" than homeless people. Either way, last time I checked, paying people a fair wage leads to lower poverty, decreased homelessness, decreased crime, decreased stress, improved family units, etc.

There really is nothing scarier to a conservative that someone who is not already rich making more money.


Texas Executes a Man who Killed No One

Update 2: Good news.

"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment," Perry said in a statement.

The Republican governor did not address the Texas law that allows an accomplice to be given the death penalty, but said: "I am concerned about Texas law that allows capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously, and it is an issue I think the Legislature should examine." Foster was tried alongside Mauriceo Brown, the man who actually murdered 25-year-old law student Michael LaHood Jr. and was executed last year.

Good for Rick Perry, I suppose. Its hard to say though, seeing as he presided over at least three other state sponsored killings this week. In reality, good for the activists all over the country who brought this horrible injustice to attention and forced Perry and the Parole board to make their decisions with an outraged public looking on.

And it wouldn't be right to forget the specific activists who played a large part in this. First,over at Afrospear and second, blogger Eddie G Griffin. Amazing work.


Go ahead and read his story. h/t to The Field Negro and Color of Change.

On August 15, 1996, Maurecio Brown got out of Kenneth Foster's car and killed Michael LaHood. When the shots were fired, 19-year-old Foster was in the driver's seat, over 80 feet away, and had no idea that that LaHood was about to commit murder. Foster was no angel that night. Earlier, he had drunk beer, smoked marijuana, and waited while Brown and other friends got out of his car to rob people at gunpoint, twice.

Brown was executed on July 19, 2006 for LaHood's murder. If Foster didn't kill LaHood, why is Texas trying to execute him? It's the "law of parties," which states that a person can be held responsible for a crime committed by someone else. Texas is the only state where the law of parties applies to capital cases, where someone can be executed because of someone else's actions. In this case, the prosecution claimed that Foster was guilty because he "should have anticipated" the murder.

In 2005, a U.S. District Judge ruled that the Law of Parties had been misapplied, violating Foster's Eighth and 14th Amendment rights, and overturned his death sentence. But a federal circuit court overruled that decision, so now Foster's fate is in the hands of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Unless the Pardons Board acts, Foster will be killed by the state for failing to read Maurecio Brown's mind.

The Pardons Board rules today. If they recommend commutation of Foster's death sentence, Gov. Perry decides Foster's fate. The Pardons Board rarely commutes sentences, and Governor Perry, citing strong support in Texas for the death penalty, did not uphold the only commutation recommended during his term (he has overseen 159 executions since 2000).
Even though the odds are against Foster, we know that public pressure can make a difference. Every ounce of pressure could help.

Texas is a rather disgusting state when it comes to executions. They make a real party out of it, scheduling death after death. Please visit FN's site and call the pardon board. I hope Foster gets a reprieve. I seriously doubt he will. Man, I really really hate Texas.

update:Another post on this over at newsrack.


A Minor Private School Drawback

No regulations for hiring teachers. Even if those teachers are convicted second degree murderers and have been repeatedly accused of raping 13 year olds.

According to police charging documents, two other girls reported being abused by Carroll between December 2004 and April 2005.

The girl previously testified that Carroll fondled and groped her on numerous occasions, sometimes consensually, before eventually raping her on the classroom floor.

Christina Phillips Holtsclaw, principal of Community Initiatives Academy, publicly defended Carroll after his 2005 rape indictment, saying he deserved a “second chance,” and never told parents about Carroll’s 1995 second-degree murder conviction.

For all we know, Mr. Carroll is teaching could be teaching a class in a week or two. No regulations exist, aside from internal ones (which clearly SUCK if a murderer/rapist had a job) to keep men like Carroll from being hired at private institutions. What is particularly troubling is that parents had no clue about Mr. Carroll's past when they paid through the nose to send their children to "Community Initiatives Academy". How about we have a "community initiative" to keep murderers and rapists out of our schools? Oh wait, we already do, and they are called public schools where teachers have to earn degrees and become certified to teach, and where all school employees must pass a criminal background check. These are all things to keep in mind when debating school privatization.


Red Maryland Baltimore Bashing

Here's the formula.

I know that X happened in P.
Therefore X is a regular occurence in P.

X = home invasion and rape
P = Baltimore City

Despite the fact the rape rates are significantly higher in the counties than in the City, this is sufficient proof that Baltimore is THE MOST DANGEROUS CITY EVER OMGZZZ.

Thing is, I know that Red Marylanders have access to statistics that could make their point in a much more reasoned, less fallacious manner. That just isn't their style.

From the apparently inefficient world of public schools.

While conservatives continue to decry public education, I find it interesting that one of the most conservative counties in Maryland happens to have one of the best public school systems around. The county also spends half of their yearly budget on schools. Something tells me that "public" schools aren't the problem, "mismanaged" schools and lack of parental involvement (for numerous reasons) are.


Castro Dead?

This seems important.

update:as Issac said, I got punk'd. sorry.


Greenwald: Unpopular Democrats Should Stand Up to Bush

It's a shame that such obvious ideas have to be spelled out, but Greenwald does a great job of doing so.

Americans still trust the Democratic Congress far more than the President on "the major issues facing the country." Congress is so deeply unpopular not because they are investigating or obstructing too much, but because they are investigating and obstructing far too little. Every time "Blue Dog" Democrats and Democratic consultants and mindless, conventional-wisdom-spouting TNR types successfully argue that, especially on national security and war issues, Democrats need to capitulate to Bush lest they be politically harmed, they make Democrats look weaker, more like losers, and more impotent (the opposite of the "strength" they think they are projecting) and dig this political hole further and further.

With a President and a Republican Party this deeply unpopular, the only thing the Democrats could really do to harm themselves is to minimize the distinctions between them and Bush, and fail to take a strong stand against the administration. With very rare exception, that is exactly what they have been doing, and that is why they are held in such low esteem. That, of course, has been the predominant critique of Beltway Democratic insiders for quite some time, but this polling data proves this view rather conclusively.

Not much more to say on this. Rather depressing stuff, because right now, Democrats look like a bunch of pansies.

Republicans Against Birth Control

Republicans are solidly out of the mainstream.


CATO: Equal Justice?


Mary Winkler is out of jail. She served 67 days after her conviction for shooting her husband in the back as he lay in bed and killing him. Now she’ll go back to work at the dry cleaners in McMinnville, Tennessee, and seek to regain custody of her children.

Meanwhile, Will Foster was sentenced to 93 years for using marijuana to relieve the pain of his acute rheumatoid arthritis. An appeals court reduced the sentence to 20 years, and Gov. Frank Keating made him serve more than four years before granting him parole.

AKA: Winning the war on drugs while losing the war on murder.


My brain just exploded

I guess that is what I get for trying to watch Hardball again. To discuss the necessity of new military draft Tweety had on two Iraq veterans, one who graduated the GOP school of being on message on talk shows, and another who, despite his good politics, is horrible on Television. The hawk was pretty much allowed to make this argument unhindered:

We need a military draft because the "elite" (never defined or elaborated upon, but in conservative circles, synonymous with Liberal) in this country don't want America to win in Iraq. If their kids had to fight in Iraq, we would get "good" equipment because these "elite" are somehow blocking untapped sources of military funding (with magical powers, I suppose) because they like watching poor people's children die. The draft would solve this problem by making the "elite" face the possibility of their own children dying (for nothing) and at this point they would certainly turn over to the military all the nice hum-vees, rifles, body armor, and cold hard cash they have been hiding from the "poor" soldiers in their "eliite" New England bunkers.

Forget the logical leaps and simply focus on the branding. The ELITE want America to lose in Iraq. Everything else isn't working, lets mahis is populist war. Both are complete shams. The Elite are running this war, but they aren't the ones Soldier 1 wants you to be angry with. Last time I checked GWB, Dick Cheney, and the folks and the State Department aren't heading down to the corner bar after work for a domestic beer and a cigarette. They are elite in every sense of the word.

Now, this soldier was not taking shots at the president, and the congress passes every supplemental that they see, so I don't see how he can talk about funding being withheld in any way. A draft would not increase the money going into the war, nor the soldiers on the ground, saving a change in strategy as well. All it would do is reduce the multiple tours many soldiers have been on Iraq.

To watch Tweety and Soldier 1 discuss the draft in such false and superficial terms, and to see the "left wing" voice on the show regurgitate the same lines about "George Bush's War" was painful. How about calling the GOP shill on his shit? I have a feeling this guy was chosen particularly for his timid demeanor. Aggressive liberals don't seem to last long on the talk TV circuit.


The Baltimore Hating Continues at Red Maryland

The new hater over at backwoods Maryland is yet another concerned citizen, Chet Dembeck. He is terribly upset that "gentrified" areas of Baltimore, like (get this) Locust Point and Hampden will be "hurt" by the election of Mayor Dixon.

First, Hampden is GENTRIFIED? Ok then, I suppose I will continue, though I once again doubt whether this critic of Baltimore has actually entered the city.

Of course there is the not so subtle endorsement of Keiffer Mitchell because he has uttered the words "zero tolerance." Crime policy that leads to the illegal arrest of thousands of (black) citizens is like candy to GOP'ers. Despite the policy barely affecting murder stats in the city, and the faced with a police department that is known for fudging numbers, I have less faith in zero tolerance than our unknown critic, Last Reporter. It might also be good to point out, that despite his support of zero-tolerance policing and the civil rights violations it causes, Last Reporter DESPISES it's Maryland architect, Martin O'Malley, as well as his surveillance plans. Seems to me that citywide surveillance is all part of the police state Last Reporter so gleefully advocates.

Really though, how can you tear down the idea of "strong government" in on paragraph and advocate authoritarian police strategies in the next? I would posit that it is because Last Reporter cares nothing about Baltimore City beyond making political points about Democratic policy in general.

Finally, as my previous post shows, there is absolutely nothing that will stop the violence caused by drug prohibition besides legalization in some form. The people who advocate zero tolerance policing are the farthest from affecting any real change in Baltimore. They are much more concerned about protecting "gentrified" (white) Baltimore, than actually saving the whole city.


3,200 Vials in Half a Day

This is what counts for "progress" in the drug war. Just look at the video on the Sun's website. Like I always say, this is a joke.

Imagine for a moment that the government was trying to stem the flow oranges into the country. Well, this would be the equivalent of seizing 20 crates of Oranges, while billions still make into supermarkets across the nation.

Will this arrest in any way reduce the availability of heroin in Baltimore? Of course not, not even for half a day.

Will another distribution operation, one that is even smarter and more secretive than before, pop up in the next few days. Of course it will.

Will these criminals be kept in jail, unable to peddle drugs for at least a few years?

Hill pleaded guilty to an intent-to-distribute charge in 2004, and received a suspended sentence with probation. The year after, he violated his probation and was ordered to spend a year in prison, electronic court records show.

Burton was charged with drug possession last June and was given one-year probation by a city District Court judge. That probation ended July 24.

Who can be sure?

After more than a MONTH of extremely expensive surveillance and thousands of man hours, the police have effectively done NOTHING.

Such is progress.

Update: By the way, if anyone in Baltimore, Annapolis, or DC want to really do something about drugs and violence associated with their illegal status, try legalization.

Roughly speaking, therefore, there have been two periods with high homicide rates in U.S. history, the 1920-1934 period and the 1970-1990 period (Friedman 1991). Both before the first episode and between these two episodes, homicide rates were relatively low or clearly declining. Prima facie, this pattern is consistent with the hypothesis that alcohol prohibition increased violent crime: homicide rates are high in the 1920-1933 period, when constitutional prohibition of alcohol was in effect; the homicide rate drops quickly after 1933, when Prohibition was repealed; and the homicide rate remains low for a substantial period thereafter. Further, the homicide rate is low during the 1950s and early 1960s, when drug prohibition was in existence but not vigorously enforced, but high in the 1970-1990 period, when drug prohibition was enforced to a relatively stringent degree (Miron 1999).

(image and caption originally posted at EH.net encyclopedia)


Bloggers Union? Give me a break.

I agree with Oliver Willis. I guess I can understand the importance to paid bloggers who work for candidates, parties, organizations, or corporations, of having their needs taken care of.

However, for most of us, blogging is not something we are paid for or ever plan to be paid for. A small number of bloggers may make enough income from ads to blog full time, but in that case, who needs a union? In fact, I find the suggestion insulting to unions for REAL workers. Perhaps the blogosphere can worry about helping to start unions for real professions that need them. Salaried writers at educational development houses perhaps (heh), or any number of real jobs (yeah, I said it) that need union representation. Its insulting that labor unions would even consider adding bloggers, when so many other professions are lacking any adequate support. All I know, is that my recent emails to publishers and writer's unions have been ignored. Perhaps if I told them I was blogger, they would have written back.

Like Oliver said, a REALLY BAD IDEA.


Kane on "Banning the Box"

Discrimination against applicants because of a felony conviction isn't like discrimination based on race. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous quote is about his wanting his children to be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

If a felony conviction - and answering questions honestly about that conviction - isn't about the content of your character, I'd like to know what the heck is.

Sometimes, Gregory Kane makes sense.


O'Malley at the DLC

More disappointment from Governor O'Malley. In case you forgot Governor, Harold Ford Jr. is a loser, both electorally and politically. There was a reason that every Democratic candidate skipped the DLC meeting this year. Its because American voters aren't stupid, and despite what your consultants tell you, people who are really politically active, people that vote in every primary and general election, realize that all your talk about ending partisanship is the biggest load of shit ever conceived.

I guess we could create a term for these people. Oh yeah, PARTISANS. You know, the ones who donate to you, volunteer for your campaigns, who VOTE for Democrats year after year. Welcome to politics gentlemen. Please leave the niceties for cocktail hour.

Seriously, where the hell would Martin O'Malley be without the "hyperpartisanship" he so quickly derides in his DLC speechifying? He wouldn't be anywhere. He is governor because partisan Democrats voted for him, in many cases I am sure, simply because of the party he represented, and the partisan views represented in that party.

In closing, the DLC is a joke. I am sure that if O'Malley ever makes a white house run, his good buddy Harold Ford Jr. and the Democratic Loser Commission will be the first on the list of severed ties.


"Pressures Dictate Plea Deals"

Pressures Dictate Plea Deals.

Or, "how the drug war has destroyed criminal justice".


In the News 7/3/07

Candidates have all filed for City Elections. Nothing really exciting or unexpected here. Some good Jill Carter coverage, I suppose.

Many disenfranchised citizens finally had their voting rights restored yesterday. Ex-felons were able to register to vote in Maryland yesterday. One very small step in reducing recidivism.

Confirming what I already knew to be true, the Examiner reports that Zero-tolerance policing doesn't cut the murder rate. Good stuff, time to move forward with new ideas.

Or perhaps some old ideas? Though the piece has a determined "feel good" affect to it, I still think its important. This is the outcome of the Mayor placing detectives on foot patrols, at least in the short term. What do you think? The story makes it sound rather impressive in it's simplicity.


Just a quick note or two

1. I can only hope that if/when I get convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, I have a buddy in the White House to commute my sentence and group of wacko followers to pay my $250,000 fine.

This guy certainly didn't.

Neither did this lady, despite her "poor memory."

The judge increased her sentence because her testimony substantially interfered with justice at Perry's trials and because she testified falsely at her own trial, when she claimed her earlier testimony was a mistake caused by poor memory, the statement said.

Am I saying these people deserved commutations? Hell no. They deserve to be in jail, just like Scooter Libby.

2. I found the research paper I referred to in the UN post below. I only have a hard copy, but I am going to try to either type it out again (and make some much needed edits and updates), or find a digital copy.

For starters, any conservative UN haters should enjoy reading the Introduction to the Controlled Substances Act, where it states:

The United States has joined with other countries in executing an international treaty, entitled the Convention on Psychotropic Substances and signed at Vienna, Austria, on February 21, 1971, which is designed to establish suitable controls over the manufacture, distribution, transfer, and use of certain psychotropic substances. The Convention is not self-executing, and the obligations of the United States thereunder may only be performed pursuant to appropriate legislation. It is the intent of the Congress that the amendments made by this Act, together with existing law, will enable the United States to meet all of its obligations under the Convention and that no further legislation will be necessary for that purpose.

Thats right, even if the US wanted to change our drug laws, we would be constrained by this wonderfully inept treaty.

Anyone who knows squat about globalization and international relations will certainly enjoy this:

The Congress has long recognized the danger involved in the manufacture, distribution, and use of certain psychotropic substances for nonscientific and nonmedical purposes, and has provided strong and effective legislation to control illicit trafficking and to regulate legitimate uses of psychotropic substances in this country. Abuse of psychotropic substances has become a phenomenon common to many countries, however, and is not confined to national borders. It is, therefore, essential that the United States cooperate with other nations in establishing effective controls over international traffic in such substances.

Its just hilarious to think that any sort of "international law" is going to constrain criminal organizations or even legal multi-national corporations when so much profit is involved. Multi-national corporations comply with international law, treaties, and trade agreements because in most cases because those laws cater, or at least do not significantly restrict their ability to do business. Its also important to note that many signatories to said treaty, including Peru, Columbia and Bolivia, are significant drug exporting nations. In 1987, over 15 years after signing the treaty, cocaine accounted for over 50% of Bolivia's export economy. Of course, back here in the US, citizens are buying drugs like hotcakes. Then, there are the nations that simply didn't sign the treaty, or have no interest in obeying it. Afghanistan makes a lot of heroin, particularly since the Taliban fell (even a dictatorship can't fully destroy the drug trade). Many nations serve as havens for drug money, such as Panama or the Cayman Islands, some individual syndicates are known to be hold over $10 billion in drug trafficking assets. It is hard to tell whether the criminals became multi-national drug operations, or the multi-national drug operations became criminal. However, with international and national law as it is now, the existence of these criminal operations, will be guaranteed for the foreseeable future.

And Mayor Dixon is talking about beefed up foot patrols. Others are talking about shutting down blocks and stopping and frisking and arresting and paroling and arresting and clearing the corner and arresting and three strikes and your are out and .. and.. and.. and doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result is a sign of mental defect.

Though he hasn't a chance in hell, the socialist candidate for Mayor has a good idea. It doesn't go far enough though.

I want the profitability taken out of the drug game in Baltimore. I want real jobs and better schools to take the place of the drug game and the violent mindset it has played the largest part in inspiring. I want drugs like heroin and cocaine to be produced by hospitals and sent to licensed locations for their sale/distribution. I want the drug dealers to be left on the corner with no one left to sell to be because down at the hospital, or the drug distribution center, the drugs are safer, cheaper and more consistent is better.

And yeah, I want the "drug war" to continue for a few more years, but it will be more of a war against illegal sale of drugs (which of course, will no longer be profitable). Possession of all drugs should be legal. Impairment while driving or operating machinery is still illegal, and the consumption of these substances, much like alcohol must occur on private property or inside of a licensed business. Drugs such as hallucinogens, party drugs such as MDMA, and marijuana, should in my opinion be fully legalized, heavily regulated, heavily taxed, and be sold only at licensed locations.

Would illegal dealers continue to try to sell their product, possibly to the many who may at first be distrustful of the legal distribution process? Of course. Would police and the community have a significant hand up in cleaning up the streets? If the state and the government are truly effective in severely reducing the profitability of the drug trade, then the answer is most definitely yes.

This became more than a quick note, and for that I am truly sorry.


The UN's War on Drugs

If you didn't know already, the UN, not the USA, has played the largest part in criminalizing drugs in our Country, and around the world. Not until the UN codified their drug provisions did the US follow in kind. I only know this because I wrote a research paper on the international laws that truly dictate our drug laws in the USA. Hopefully I can dig it out of my closet and post some links/excerpts.

Either way, this story is interesting. Now, the article claims that drug use and production is "down", however the truth is that is has simply not grown at as large a rate. Its static.
"For almost all drugs – cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamines – there are signs of overall stability, whether we speak of production, trafficking or consumption," he said, commenting on the agency's annual drug report that was released Monday.
In a telephone interview from the agency's Vienna headquarters, Mr. Costa said, "The general message of this report is that we have some pretty robust evidence that containment, a word we first used in 2004, is becoming a trend, though we need in the next few years to prove that it is statistically and logically strong."

"It still could be a fluke," he said, "but we hope to prove that it's now cyclical."

Basically, nothing is changing. Drugs aren't disappearing, they are experiencing the same multi-billion dollar market as usual. This story makes for some fun propaganda though.

Does anyone else find this paragraph disturbing?

The release of the new drug report coincides with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, a day created by the UN "as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse." In recognition of the awareness day, nations from around the world have renewed their pledge to continue fighting illegal drugs.

Clearly national sovereignty is no issue for the UN. But its sad to see such a large group caught in such delusion. A "society free of drug abuse" is such a joke I makes me sick. Reality isn't important to these folks, apparently.

Their "Youth Charter for a Twenty-First Century Free of Drugs" could be a textbook in delusion.

Considering that we live in a world in which drug trafficking and drug use constitute a threat to the development and progress of our societies, that drugs engender ever more violence, crime, exploitation and other violations of our rights, we urge our countries to combat these threats and, to this end, to guarantee peace, freedom, democracy, solidarity, justice, protection of the environment and access to employment,

Drugs are chemicals and plants that people take to get high. "Drugs", the simple substances, cause no violence. The ILLEGAL DRUG TRADE causes crime and violence, and overzealous police action causes violations of our rights.

Of course, this could be different in other nations, particularly in drug producing nations. But isn't that just why this UN policy is so stupid in the first place? Every nation has their own situation, and should be free to make laws without fear of international retribution by the UN.

Maybe this is just some angry screed against those who claim that "drugs" imprison people. In fact, it is completely stupid international and federal laws which are imprisoning people for taking liberty with their own bodies.

Hamm: "Drug dealers in Baltimore are finally getting the message..."

So Baltimore police arrested 7 men involved with what we are told is a "large" heroin operation. Thats all well and good I suppose, despite the fact that every junkie in the city will still get high tonight and by now another crew has probably already taken over the territory vacated by these men.

Let me cut right to the bullshit, as it were. Commissioner Hamm had this to say:

Baltimore Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm said he hoped “that drug dealers in Baltimore are finally getting the message that if they continue plying their deadly trade, they will be caught and severely punished.”

Is anyone else horribly disturbed at how delusional this man is? Finally getting the message? Hamm, and all those who follow his drug control strategy are ignoring reality. If Hamm and his department seriously think for a second that they have taught anyone in the drug game a "lesson" with these arrests, they are more than delusional, they should be up for retirement.

For those dead set on getting a piece of that $20,000 a day, jail is an afterthought, or even a necessary consequence. Its a poisonous mindset, one that combines the worst elements of criminality and capitalism. Its not to say that introducing government oversight and regulation and creating a legal market would remove all of the corruption, but would certainly remove the criminality, and violence and blight that comes with it.

This is why Hamm's comments are so disturbing. At best, he is trumpeting bullshit knowingly, at the behest of the Mayor. At worst, he lacks an understanding of the very people that make up the criminal element in the city he is sworn to protect.


Drugs! OH MY!

Check out this hilarious Examiner article. Its a great example of a "Freak out the Parents" puff peice.

Describing one of the latest trends in substance abuse, Baltimore County drug expert Michael Gimbel pulled out a pink-tinted hookah, its snaking hose dangling behind it.

“You think kids are sitting and smoking this for hours ... without [putting] marijuana in it?” he asked a roomful of Baltimore County school counselors Friday.

Well, actually, many of them do. Do some of them put Marijuana in it? Perhaps, though my experience has been that users find preparing a hookah for marijuana use is both too time consuming and rather wasteful. Of course, that doesn't stop Mike Gimble from making his "point". I dunno, any teenager who can both buy a hookah (nearly $100 I think, and only available to those over 18) and keep it hidden from parents (they can be rather large and produce a huge amount of smoke) is already most likely showing some more prominent warning signs of drug use/addiction.

He also said the Baltimore region has seen a surge in stimulant abuse, ranging from cigarettes to cocaine.

“Stimulants are probably the most popular drug going on with kids today,” Gimbel said.

He warned against the use of herbal supplements and caffeine drinks, such as Red Bull and Mountain Dew Amp, and said Adderall is the No. 1 prescription drug abused in the region.

Yeah kids, stay away from stimulants. Mommy needs her coffee and three cigarettes to wake up in the morning, and yeah, your brother Joey needs his Adderall so he can get straight A's in college, and every sports star around is jocking some sort of energy drink, but you stay away from those stimulants. Wait, take this sudafed for your stuffy nose and wash it down with this Dr. Pepper.

Gimble finally gets around to saying something MEANINGFUL in the final paragraph.

To address teen drug abuse and addiction, Gimbel said, more treatment options are needed.

“We don’t have enough treatment for people in Maryland. ... The hardest thing for kids to realize is they are going to addicts for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Agreed. Though perhaps treatment would be easier to focus on if we all simply accepted the prevalence of drug use in our society and moved forward from there.
There is a reason for inane specialty products like this (and I can guarantee you that "teens" are the big buyers):

Gimbel showed the counselors marijuana pipes concealed as lipstick containers and markers, Reef flip-flops with flasks embedded in the sole and a mini beer bong meant for quick drinking.

America, and more specifically, humans, like drugs. We enjoy (often OVERENJOY) mind altering experiences, from a cup of coffee, a runners high after a few miles, a shot and beer, a puff from a joint, an orgasm, a snort of cocaine, a mainline of heroin.

Gimbel is right, these kids will be addicted for the rest of their lives. But aren't we all slaves to our own addictions and fancies? Some addictions are more troubling than others, both for the addicted person and for the society around them.

We are left then with the choice of how to deal with both the addiction and with the addictive substance. When we realize that elimination of the addictive substance (the product), in a truly free and democratic society, is impossible, and that even a reduction in product levels does not seem to reduce demand, we must leave behind any strategy associated with criminalizing the possession or sale of the product. These strategies have proven to be ineffective, as extreme addiction and the ills associated with it have not been reduced, and have in fact increased.

We must turn to a harm reduction strategy which legalizes both the production and sale of the addictive substances. We must redirect our efforts to making the substance available to addicts in legal markets, thus reducing the violence associated with any trade in illegal products so high in demand. Any and all profits from this effort must be funneled, along with billions in federal and state funding, into numerous effective treatment programs aimed at all levels and segments of society. Programs should be available to all on a walk in basis for free.

Reducing the harm from trade in illegal goods and from addiction should be the main thrust of any drug policy interested in really improving the lives of the largest number of Americans. Until then, we can continue to twiddle our thumbs and fret over hookahs, flask sandals, and the kids drinking all of our caffeine and liquor.

Update: I think I should expand on what I meant by "But aren't we all slaves to our own addictions and fancies?"

Drug addiction is often seen as the most damaging of addictions. Illegal drug addicts are normally portrayed in the media as poor, criminal, dysfunctional, nonfunctional, unprofessional, and singularly driven by their addiction. In some cases, this mirrors reality. However, in many cases it does not.

Just think, can a multi-billion dollar industry survive by only selling to the poor and destitute? Selling only to those who must beg on the corner or steal to support their habit? Of course not. Someone is spending this money, and chances are that you know at least one or two of them.

But forget illegal drug addiction for a moment and think about what America seems to be addicted aside from billions of dollars in marijuana, cocaine, speed, psychotropics, and heroin.

Prescription drugs are a good place to start. Millions of Americans use amphetamines and narcotics legally every day. These drugs are distributed through pharmacies with the knowledge of Doctors. Often both the Doctor and the Pharmacist are complicit in serving the needs of an addict with a "recurring back problem." Yet we hear again and again how "immoral" it would be to "create a generation of addicts". Well, take your complaints to the "pain management" industry, keeping citizens filled to the gills with legal opiates. We don't hear about it because it doesn't lead to shootouts in the streets (only in a pharmacy, every once and a while).

What about sugar, or should I say, High Fructose Corn Syrup. Ask any "low carb" diet adherent about this one. One of the most highly addictive substances around, its in almost everything, and it is heavily subsidized by the government. If only diabetes and obesity got the same coverage as gang murders, you might see this made "illegal".

And of course, blogs can talk all they want, when it comes to shares of the internet, pornography wins, hands down. Another billion dollar industry, SEX is certainly something you never hear drug opponents decry as addictive, despite the serious chemicals released in the brain during orgasm. Well, the PORNO is feeding a rather pervasive ORGASM addiction (Buzzcocks anyone?) in the USA.

Of course, its silly to think the last two of these compare to the drug war in any real way, but I think they do serve to show that addiction is way of life for humanity, at least I believe it is. Acting as if it can be eliminated, or that simply by avoiding illegal drugs that these kids will avoid addiction for life is just silly.

Maybe its time for schools to introduce a class on identifying and treating addictive behavior of all kinds. Did this post make sense to anyone? I sure hope so.

Update 2: The current consensus in the medical community is that addiction is a disease, both mental and physical. Interesting. Lets go back to Gimbel's words.

..the hardest thing for kids to realize is they are going to addicts for the rest of their lives.

I have a feeling we will all be addicts of some kind for the rest of our lives. Drug addicts? That is another story. However, in our current discourse, the term addiction seems only reserved for those who use drugs, who eat too much, or who enjoy gambling a bit too much.

Other addictions get funny names, I suppose to lighten the blow that most of us are suffering from them. If you spend 80 hours a week at work, you are a workaholic. If you have sex with numerous random people, you are a player (it helps to be male in this case). Maybe you just like to sit in front of the TV after dinner, and for 5 hours straight, watch all of your favorite shows in order, or TIVO'ing them to watch later. In this case, you are just a normal American! Don't get me wrong, I watch a lot of TV, but the stimulus is easily addicting and hypnotizing at the same time. Lets not even talk about the ever present need to remove all of the bold from my google reader.

Of all of our daily repetitive behaviors, how many contain some form of addictive behavior? I would wager a good bit. I must conclude that we are all diseased, with the distinct possibility of things getting worse before they get better. Now, who should we call, a doctor or a police officer?