Thursday, April 02, 2009

Just plain folks

On Horses' Ass, a blog of some local notoriety, one of the contributors, Lee, posted about Rick Steves' new video on his trip to Iran. For those who may not know Rick, he's a well known travel writer who hosts a show on PBS, Rick Steves' Europe. This time, instead of showing us the back streets of Amsterdam, he went to Iran.

For almost thirty years, we held Iran as one of our most dastardly enemies in the Middle East. They took our people hostage, sponsored terrorist attacks abroad and always seem to have these huge anti-American rallies all the time. George W. Asswipe once placed them in his 'Axis of Evil' list.

They don't like us because our CIA sponsored a coup in 1953 to place the Shah, Reza Pahlavi back on the throne of Iran. He was sent packing in the first place because he was a shill for the the western oil companies. The locals didn't like outsiders getting all the gold for their oil so they kicked out the Shah and elected another leader. The CIA found some generals and other greedy bastards in the government to stage a coup if they would promise to let Big Oil back into the country. That shit lasted until 1979 when the people had enough of the corporate bullshit and Pahlavi's secret police squads so they revolted by storming the American Embassy and taking its people hostage. That lasted 444 days until Jan. 1980 when they were released.

Since then we've not spoken directly to them, only through intermediates. The government of Iran has become a theocracy, which means it governs at the whim of the high priests of Shiite Islam supposedly according to the tenets of the Quoran.

Theocracies are bullshit. As soon as you start legislating morality you get trapped in a vortex of social and political upheaval that always ends in violence and anarchy. Freedom and liberty are the first victims in a theocracy. But, theocracies are not limited to the Muslim world. There are many folks here in this country who privately look at Iran and ponder how they can do that shit here. Not a government ruled according to the Quoran, but a government ruled by the tenets of the Bible.

I took the time to view Rick's video yesterday and I was impressed. The government of Iran was not portrayed in a wonderful light but it wasn't demonized either. He showed how the restrictions were imposed on the everyday people, the regular Iranian who went to work and paid the bills and just wanted to live a somewhat normal life. Just like me.

They were genuinely happy to see Americans. No 'Death to America' chants or displays of hatred, just curiosity and congeniality. It was really cool. You could still see some anti-American shit but it seemed to be ignored mostly.

I recommend watching the videos. They're in six parts on YouTube and can be purchased for $5 through Rick's website. If you like the videos as much as I did, order one of your own. Here are the links to the video in six parts:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Take the time to look at this. If we are going to deal with the Middle East we have to see these people as who they are, not as how their government is. Consider what the world thought of us after eight years of the Monkey King? Jesus, that sends a shudder down my spine every time I do.

During the Bush years, I was not part of that government, but I was a part of America. I considered that while watching the video. After viewing it, think of John McCain famous little ditty stolen from the Beach Boys. Can you honestly think of bombing that country without a damn good reason?

So Mote It Be,
David A.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

21st Century Prohibition pt4 - Main Street

This series on the 21st Century Prohibition is changing a bit. Due to recent developments and Pres. Obama's unfortunate comments at the Online Townhall meeting, I've decided to change the direction of the discussion here. I had originally meant for this to be about the Legal Eagles, the groups that are providing legal services to those who find themselves in the grip of Johnny Law. That part will be forthcoming as soon as I can get more information. I would hate to link to bad goods on a topic that's so important to the Warriors.

This post is about Main Street. It's your hometown, my hometown, the little berg that has a couple of stores and a post office or a urban neighborhood with ethnic flavors and smells, little old ladies walking to the grocery and the church. This is the residence of Mom and Pop America. They've lived here most of their life. They shop here, worship here, they say hello to Phil at the corner grocery. They go to the clinic for all their aches and pains and dread the day when the doctor tells them the inevitable. They're getting older but they still have their kids.

Their kids are in schools all over the country, trying hard to get that sacred piece of sheepskin. They go from campus to campus learning all about the world and how they'll make their mark in it. They're burning the midnight oil for tests and midterms, studying hard and smoking pot. Lots of pot.

Mom and Pop America may not know about this, they may be sitting in their kitchens drinking tea and coffee, talking about the medical bills, the student loans, the costs of gas and grocery, or the rising price and dwindling coverage of their insurance. This isn't a happy time. Concern about whether their progeny is partaking of the ghanj isn't high on their list. Until, that is, their kids get busted.

Getting busted for a gram of weed can cost a college student his/her student loans. In some states, it could lead to a felony conviction which would severely limit their employment opportunities. A person with a felony conviction can't hold any job that requires bonding or licensing, other than a driver's license. Most government jobs are off the table as are most large corporations. You are required to divulge your conviction on all job applications and if you lie (background checks will rat you out) you'll be kicked to the curb. The best you can do is unskilled or semi-skilled labor or, if you're lucky, go to work for a small business that has a soft spot for you.

Mom and Pop America are getting older. They're getting close to their sunset years with all the aches and pains that go with them. There was a time when you just died if you got cancer or AIDS. Now, you can live longer with the right combination of drugs. Even if they make you sick and puke or lose any semblance of an appetite. In order for these drugs to work, you have to keep your strength up, eat regular and drink lots of water. When your body is healing itself, the last thing you want to do is stop putting food in it. Well, consider the decisions facing Mom and Pop now that Granny or Auntie Em are sick with cancer and need pain relief or won't eat anything. Either you order a pine box for their big dirt nap or you set aside all the bullshit that people like Harry Anslinger, John Walters, or General Nuisance Barry McCaffrey have been selling and take a long, hard look at cannabis. Converts are coming out all over the US.

Drug companies have us by the balls. Insurance companies have us by the throat. Together they're twisting and stretching us every which way but up. They may have had a bad time these past few months but don't think they've seen the light yet. They still exist only to make as much profit as possible, the health and well being of the population be damned. Medical marijuana is bad juju to these goons. Here's a plant that can be grown in the back yard that can alleviate pain and nausea. No processing, no slick advertisement, no fancy packaging that features pretty people with perfect teeth - worse of all, no profit. You can bet your last bar of soap that these industries will be dead set against allowing the legal distribution of medical marijuana.

State legislatures all over the country are taking a new, reasonable look at their marijuana laws. With the advent of the progressive movement's victories in elections all across the country, many lawmakers are taking the chance on changing these outmoded laws and penalties, something not heard of just a couple of years ago. Mind you, there are a lot of hurdles yet to climb and this could all take a turn for the worse but there has never been a better time to defeat 'Reefer Madness' once and for all.

In order to get to the point where we can go to the corner smoke shop and order a qtr 'z' of Purple Spank Surprise, there are certain landmarks that need to be laid out.
  1. Stop the raids on medical marijuana clinics and make a public statement to that effect.
  2. Defer to state laws in all cases of jurisdiction if state laws are more lenient.
  3. Drop Cannabis from the Schedule One list of dangerous drugs.
  4. Legalize the cultivation, distribution and processing of Hemp and Hemp products in the US.
  5. Decriminalize the possession of up to 40 grams of marijuana for personal use.
  6. Legalize the cultivation of up to 15 plants for personal use. (60 plants for medicinal)
  7. Enact legislation that creates a tax code and reasonable mechanisms for taxing the sale and distribution of marijuana.
  8. Legalize the sale and possession of up to 40 grams of marijuana for adults 21 years or older.
  9. Allow special licensing for small homegrown craft growers who would expand the market and allow branding of certain 'vintage' types of cannabis.
Surely, the last few are a long way off, but it pays to dream!

Currently, there is a lot of suffering going on at the border with Mexico. Drug cartels are kidnapping people, sending them across the border into our state parks and national forests to grow marijuana. The marijuana grown there is sold in the cities of the Southwest, perhaps even as far away as Chicago and New York. The profits from those sales are then taken to gun shows and retailers in Texas, Arizona and California where semi-automatic (and in some cases fully automatic) weapons are purchased and smuggled back to Mexico. Once there, the guns are used in the cartels' war with the Mexican government. Try as they might, the Mexican government is outgunned, out financed and outmaneuvered by these drug lords. The MPP has said that 60% of the financing for the weaponry used by the drug lords comes from the sale of marijuana to users in America.

Take away that money! If we were to legalize marijuana, the flow of funds and guns to the cartels would dry up like an old condom. They wouldn't be able to keep up the fight with the Mexican government and would soon be defeated. The only ones who would be adversely impacted by this, besides the drug lords, would be the gun merchants in Texas. Boo freaking Hoo!

So, it comes down to being reasonable. Lord knows, we don't need another vice in our lives and marijuana is one of them to be sure. But if I were to choose which one to have, smoking pot would be far ahead of tobacco (hate the taste and the toxins), alcohol (false bravado, hangovers, puking your guts out in the back yard), gambling (going broke in 15 minutes was never that fun) or sky diving (planes have landing gear for a reason).

The only way we are going to achieve the list I've put out there is by doing it by the numbers. When Mom and Pop America see Auntie Em, whose suffering from her cancer treatments, get relief from pot then we've got advocates. Not the kind of advocates you'd normally see associated with the cannabis issue, but god-fearing hard working folks who just want to see their loved ones treated with dignity and compassion.

Update: I erred in including Oklahoma as a source of illegal guns to the Mexican Cartels. The ATF states that in addition to Texas, California and Arizona have been found to be the source of many of the weapons used by the cartels. More info coming...

Update deux: jeg43 commented that I should take another look at my statement about the flow of guns from the US to the Mexican Drug Lords. I found the error with Oklahoma as I was researching this and changed it above. But as I went across the web, the primary theme from the government (the ATF, the FBI, and the State Dept.) as well as the media on the ground in Juarez, Tijuana, and the US border towns that the evidence of Mexican surragates buying thousands of assault weapons from American gun shows is overwhelming.

Mexican cartels are using assault rifles like the variants of the AK-47 and AR-15 that the ATF traced back to sellers in the United States. According to a Mexican government official and The Brookings Institution, as many as 2,000 weapons enter Mexico daily and fuel an arms race between competing Mexican drug cartels. Since 1996, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has traced more than 62,000 firearms smuggled into Mexico from the United States,and ATF officials estimate that 90% of the weapons recovered in Mexico come from U.S. gun dealers; about 55% of these guns are assault rifles.

An in-depth analysis of firearms trace data by the ATF over the past three years shows that Texas, Arizona and California are the three most prolific source states, respectively, for firearms illegally trafficked to Mexico

My source, with good footnotes: I hope to provide more info later as it comes up. As I said to jeg43, I'm no fan of unregulated gun sales and feel that there are far too many guns in the world. BUT, I acknowledge that the Constitution has a Second Amendment that should be considered as important as the First. No law abiding citizen should be kept from owning a gun if they choose.

So Mote It Be,
David A.