Archive for January, 2014

Quote of the Day

Decriminalization [of drugs] does not result in increased drug use. […] It is time to end the war on drugs worldwide. We must stop criminalizing drug users. Health and treatment should be offered to drug users – not prison. Bad drug policies affect literally hundreds of thousands of individuals and communities across the world. We need to provide medical help to those that have problematic use – not criminal retribution.” – Richard Branson

I guess this is just what I have to say to entities such as DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart who told the Major Counties Sheriffs’ Association that Obama’s comments comparing marijuana’s dangers to alcohol – were a “big slap in the face” to cops murdered while enforcing drug laws.

If those cops are dead for busting marijuana users and/or cartels, then that is more a function of marijuana being illegal in the first place, not the President’s comments pointing out the dangers, or lack thereof, of them.

Secondly, stating that marijuana  – which currently is a Schedule I drug – meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and absolutely no medical benefits – is far less harmful than alcohol which is legal  – is merely stating medical facts; it is, in no shape, a judgment on those who performed their duty while enforcing policies they did not formulate.

The thing of it is, making drugs illegal  – any kind of drugs really, not just cannabis – and sending those who use them to jail, thus criminalizing the act, is not only a waste of our sparse resources, but it leads to nowhere. If people abuse drugs – just like with alcohol –  which does have a very high abuse potential and no medical benefits – then they need medical treatment, not jail time and criminal retribution. Sending someone who suffers from the disease of addiction to jail is no different than incarcerating someone suffering from cancer or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

It was high time, pun not intended, that we focused our attention and resources on actually helping people who suffer, not locking them up, demonizing them or else punishing them for drug abuse.

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Just For Us

Atheism, the Arrogant Belief That The Billion Galaxy Universe Was Not Just Created For Us

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Bread and Circuses

Justin Bieber's DUI mugshot. The most powerful smile in the world.

Justin Bieber’s DUI mugshot. The most powerful smile in the world.

I often complain about how most people in this country are the intellectual equivalents of a Disney cruise who know more about sports statistics and what celebrity did whom and where than about where a foreign country their elected leaders are currently bombing is located on the map or the fact that their government is spying on them and committing all sorts of crimes in their names while persecuting those who expose the crimes. And everytime I feel that maybe I am just being a bit unfair and too hard on people, underrating the American public’s intellect and priorities, something like this happen reaffirming my suspicions all along.

Congresswoman Jane Harman was interrupted by MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell in the middle of a discussion about the recent task force recommendation that the NSA stop collecting phone records with some seriously BREAKING news:

Uh, Congresswoman Harman, let me interrupt you— Congresswoman, let me interrupt you just for a moment. We’ve got some breaking news out of Miami. Stand by if you will. [BREAKING NEWS graphic appears onscreen, following footage of a courtroom] Right now, in Miami, Justin Bieber has been arrested on a number of charges. The judge is reading the charges, including resisting arrest and driving under the influence. He’s appearing now before the judge for his bond hearing. Let’s watch.”

Yes, Justin fucking Bieber, the teen multi-millionaire puke who was going to be an abortion but instead became the greatest human being and panty creamer ever, was arrested in Miami for DUI. This is the breaking news, and apparently also priorities of this nation, for which a lawmaker- who is talking about this country spying on its people – needs to be interrupted.

Now I do not hold a very high opinion of our lawmakers as most of them are nothing but corrupt crooks with ethics lower than that of a child molester, pandering to the interests of the 1% (which they often are part of themselves) at the expense of everyone else and Harman was probably just just blowing some smoke our way to make it look like she and her colleagues are actually doing something about the NSA spying on people, but this is just a pathetic state of affairs.

And the reason MSNBC (and even NPR) does that is because they know that Justin Bieber has more Twitter followers than President Obama (or any other human for that matter).

Yup. Priorities. We got them.

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How to Ridicule Without Trying

Reading Bible for fun

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The Consequences of Making Pot Illegal

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Now that the state of Colorado has legalized marijuana for recreational use starting January 1 with Washington state following suit shortly after, the pot legalization debate is getting a fresh perspective with new voices chiming in, either praising or scolding the new direction two of our states have taken.

One of the arguments many people make in favor of making marijuana illegal is that it creates crime and/or turns neighborhoods into crime zones with shady characters roaming the streets.

The reality is that all the things one associates with illicit drug use, in this case marijuana – such as shady neighborhoods, drug rings, gangs, crime, prostitution, back-door alleys and a host of other such crimes and shady characteristics – exist precisely because drugs are illegal.

See, when you make something illegal, such as pot, you create a certain kind of atmosphere and milieu that becomes conducive to those very things you want to avoid, such as shady neighborhoods, back-door alleys, gangs and criminals. When an otherwise law-abiding citizen has to go into the underground to get his supply, that person will soon be at the mercy of criminals whose least offense probably is the sale of marijuana.

If people were able to get their supplies from within a well-lit, clean store in a legitimate business center, without feeling conspicuous and paranoid that they may get caught or doing something wrong, then those criminal elements and shadiness people are complaining about would disappear.

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One great example to the point is the Hustler Hollywood store on the Sunset Strip near West Hollywood. From the outside, it looks like just any other retail space on the strip: the windows are tall and clear instead of dark and tinted with a few mannequins wearing tasteful lingerie on display. When you enter the store, it is bright and clean – with a few tables here and there where various T-shirts and sweaters with the Hustler logo and other kinky slogans are neatly folded. There is a book and magazine section, a smoothie bar, a lingerie and sex paraphernalia section, dressing rooms and employees that are dressed in civilian clothing, looking like they may be working at J.Crew.

The Hustler store in Hollywood

The Hustler store in Hollywood

The area that contains the porn DVDs is sectioned off for those who are 18 and above, but it is not behind some red curtain that has a neon sign above it reading “XXX.”

I have been to that store a few times with friends and never felt shady, sleazy and dirty and I also never got dirty looks from people one would perceive as shady, sleazy and dirty. In fact, the people I saw in there were the same kind people I may encounter in any retail clothing store. The Hustler Hollywood store has effectively managed to take what people often perceive as seedy and derogatory into the light, literally, so that people no longer have to sneak around and feel like sleazy assholes simply because they enjoy sex.

Wanna know what makes sex shops dirty? The dark covered windows that have NUDE GIRLS and XXX printed on them, the dark, badly lit interior where truly shady characters can hide behind some dark corner jerking off to women’s lingerie or some porn magazine with the employees themselves looking like they had just done a few lines of coke on urinals.

See, it is not porn itself that creates such an atmosphere and milieu, but the fact that porn is viewed as evil, out of place, dirty, perverse and illicit with lawmakers and a few religious, moral crusaders driving those businesses into shady neighborhoods where they are forced to cover up their windows in black tape and hide the fact that people not only have kinky sex but also enjoy it. By turning porn into something dirty to be hidden from society and ashamed of and thus a crime basically, you in effect aide in setting up the foundation for criminal elements.

Such a milieu, in turn, becomes the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of shady people with dubious priorities and agendas – including human traffickers, heroin dealers, petty criminals and even elements of organized crime.

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To be clear, this is not an argument in favor of legalizing heroin (although there is a legitimate point by some experts in doing that as well); the point is that making something illegal creates a host of liabilities and thus the very kind of milieu and environments that people associate with drug use and are using to oppose drug legalization in the first place.

In reality, we probably wouldn’t even be having all those criminal elements lying around if people could conduct their business – be it buying pot or porn – in a nice, clean, well-lit  and thus legitimate environment.

Life Sentence for Selling Marijuana

The reason I am talking about this today is that The Human Solution, a pot advocacy group,  revealed that while marijuana is becoming legal for recreational use in two of our states with other state legislators considering legalization as well,  at least 25 people have been condemned to live out their days behind bars because they were involved in the marijuana trade.

One such individual is James Romans, a divorced 42-year-old father of three from Indiana who dabbled in selling pot to support his family and accidentally got himself into the illicit business of a much larger, multi-million dollar drug cartel. It was eventually found out that he’d been a major player in a trafficking organization responsible for transporting more than 10,000 kilos of marijuana into the U.S. from Mexico – you know, from those cartels across the border that hack off your hands, feet and head and throw the bodies in a landfill  so they cannot be identified – those kinds of people.

Romans entered prison in April of last year. A few weeks after his arrival, his parents and sister suddenly stopped getting calls from him. They later found out that a group of inmates had rioted, prompting the guards to lock everyone in their cells for a two-week stretch.

Several months after that, according to Romans’ sister, Elizabeth Bishop, Romans returned from lunch to find guards in his cell and blood spattered all over the walls and the beds. “Somebody attempted to murder his cellmate,” his sister explained.

Romans has never been convicted of a violent crime, and Bishop, for her part, insists he’s as gentle as can be, despite the evidence that he had guns and ran the smuggling ring. “Scared of a spider” was how she put it.

The U.S funded the Guatemalan military during the 1960s and 1970s anti-insurgency war, despite awareness of widespread human rights violations. Among the recipients of U.S military funding and training were the Kaibiles, a special force unit responsible for several massacres. Former Kaibiles have joined the ranks of the Zetas drug cartel.

The U.S funded the Guatemalan military during the 1960s and 1970s anti-insurgency war, despite awareness of widespread human rights violations. Among the recipients of U.S military funding and training were the Kaibiles, a special force unit responsible for several massacres. Former Kaibiles have joined the ranks of the Zetas drug cartel.

And yet he’s sentenced to spend the rest of his life under the same roof as men like Ricky Mungia, a Texan who went on a shooting spree with some white and Latino friends in 1994, hunting down black men in the streets of Lubbock and shooting them from a car with a short-barreled shotgun.

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The war on drugs is not only a pointless one but an illegitimate one. If Romans was in the state of Colorado today doing exactly what he did back then, running a marijuana business and selling pot, he would be free and a legitimate business owner, even helping his state raise much needed revenue.

However, because marijuana is illegal federally, he was not only driven into the arms of heinous Mexican drug cartels whose least offense probably is the selling of marijuana, but he also has to spend the rest of his life with actual criminals in prison, costing tax payers around $60,000 a year just to take care of him. Moreover, his children will grow up without their father at their side and probably burned by the stigma of having a parent in prison who, any day, may be killed, raped and hurt.

I ask you, what is the bigger detriment to society? Selling pot to people or what is being done with and to Romans?

That is not justice, nor does it help better society. Romans can easily be a productive member of society because his “crime” was a faceless one (and non existent as far Colorado and millions are concerned). Him selling that pot didn’t hurt anyone, and his incarceration, aside from not being just, is an unnecessary and completely avoidable burden to society.

And that, dear reader, is the real cost we as a society pay when making marijuana illegal. Romans has now been placed in that very environment that those opposing drug legalization are trying to avoid by making drugs illegal in the first place.

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Everyday Is A Good Day To Quote The Bible

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Welcome to the United Oligarchy of America Where Over 50% of Congress Members Are Millionaires

In a democracy, it is important that those who make decisions on behalf of the people who elect them into office are also personally affected by those decisions. Such a premise is crucial for the functioning and integrity of a meaningful democracy.

If those in charge are wealthy entities or part of an extremely privileged, wealthy class not affected the least bit by the policies they output, then they not only become practically elected kings but they are also not likely to enact policies that would affect anyone but those very privileged, wealthy entities they themselves are part of.

One of the reasons that our lawmakers, including the President, have not made creating a meaningful social safety net for citizens a priority is that most of them are all wealthy and seldom, if ever, affected by lack of a social safety net and even most of the policies they draft. (If you don’t believe me and think welfare recipients have it so good, I challenge you to conduct a little experiment on you own by pretending to be unemployed/disabled/in need of welfare and see for yourself just how much money you would qualify for from our generous welfare system. I’ll eat my words and make a public apology if the amount of money you are going to get is actually going to enable you to properly live for one month – i.e. pay rent, pay necessary bills, transportation, health care, food etc. Dogs in a pound require more money than the meager “social safety net” this country pays human beings).

Congress, A Millionaire’s Club

A few months ago I wrote about the United States Congress being a millionaires club with 238 of the 535 “public servants” (Congressmen) having a net worth of at least one million dollars, effectively making them members of the 1%.

According to OpenSecrets.org that number has risen to 268 in 2012. In other words, now over half of our lawmakers are wealthier beyond the wildest dreams, and possibilities, of most Americans they govern.

That is a problem.

As OpenSecrets points out “while members of Congress have long been far wealthier than the typical American, the fact that now a majority of members are millionaires represents a watershed moment at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage“; all policies that affect people who are not part of the 1%.

It is no surprise, then, that our lawmakers are not making the strengthening and expanding of a social safety net, including a public option in health care, their priority and in fact, go after so-called “entitlement” programs everytime they talk fiscal responsibility and budget – as if it was welfare recipients, food-stamp recipients, the elderly, the poor and disabled that caused the economic meltdown and not the very entities our lawmakers have been deregulating for decades because they do line their corrupt pockets.

Whether social security is depleted or not will not affect a single member of Congress or their families. When the government is shut down for weeks leaving millions of people without a paycheck and other direly needed services, our lawmakers continue the gamble and casually use the livelihood of those people as a bargaining chip to extort more unconscionable concessions out of the other party. And they do so casually and while taking their time because whether the government is shut down for three weeks or for three months, they still get their $174,000 a year salaries.

Nothing screams "we are just like you" that wearing a several thousand dollars gown and posing in a mansion. Thank you Michelle Obama for showing us that, just like  most Americans, you can sport a $5000 gown and $800 shoes while still being "just like us."

Nothing screams “we are just like you” more than wearing a several thousand dollars gown and posing in a mansion. Thank you, Michelle Obama, for showing us that, just like most Americans, you can sport a $5000 gown and $800 shoes while still being “just like us.”

A member of Congress – even the President himself who has done his share of rubbing his wealth and privilege into the face of the American people  – never has to worry about needing unemployment benefits, disability benefits, Medicare, social security, housing or nutrition assistance. They never have to worry about fair wages, not having access to quality and affordable health care, that they will lose their homes or how to send their kids to college. They are sitting cushy and pretty on their constitutionally guaranteed salaries, pair of $800 Jimmy Choos (our “man of the people” wife’s favorite shoe designer) plus all the bribes they can get from the robber barons of big industry and the financial world that line their pockets.

It is no coincidence that most of our lawmakers, even Democrats, have, overall, prioritized doing the bidding for the wealthy and corporations – at the expense of everyone else and under the guise of “hard work” and “The American Dream.”  They are so far removed from what real life is actually like for the entities they govern, they are not likely to especially care about addressing the very issues that those entities struggle with.

It is an especially cruel irony, therefore, that the individuals behind the Occupy Wallstreet movement, for example, – i.e. the 99% – have to look at these very dishonest crooks in Congress – the one percent – to do something about the 1%. It is absurd. It’s like asking the thieves to please do something about the thieves.

Of course our lawmakers are not going to do anything that may jeopardize the lucrative positions they are in. They are not going to cut off the very lifeline (or money line) that fleeces their pockets.

Coupled with the democracy-obliterating Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court (whose members will also never be affected by the decisions they make as most of them will be dead in less than a decade), it is now almost guaranteed that only those with immense wealth will win Congressional and presidential elections to ultimately make decisions about a social safety net they will never need.

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