Friday, February 11, 2011

Congratulations Egypt!!

by Becky Johnson
Feb 11, 2011

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Watching the Egyptian revolution from the comfort of my living room on CNN and other American news media has allowed me to be a witness to a drama on par with Les Miserables. President Hosni Mubarek, although carrying the title of "President" is/was actually a dictator, despite denials as such by Vice-President Joe Biden. And now, the sheer force of the Egyptian people taking to the streets, bravely carrying signs and letting their faces be seen by Mubarek's secret police, has in only 18 days taken down a military regime.

While without doubt, the unifying cry has been to throw Mubarek out of office, the secondary demand has been for the right of freedom of speech and for the right of the people to peaceably assemble. You see, under the Mubarek regime, one could neither protest nor assemble.

What will come next? In the best case scenario, the heads of the Egyptian army provide for a safe and smooth transition to free and open elections, as well as a transition to a representative government. Egypt's equivalent of Marshall Law will be lifted soon, ending the 30-year "emergency" that put it in place.

In the worst, religious-fanatics shoot their way to power and sharia law is instituted about the land. One election occurs and then no more after that.

But I do not fear the worst. I am extremely hopeful for the fate of the Egyptian people, that they find their way forward, that an era of freedom of speech, an end to the use of State torture, and free and open elections follow.

Egypt's young people are educated, internet-savvy, and less interested in religious extremism than their parent's generation. However, in current Egypt, good-paying jobs have not been available, leading to a whole generation without hope. Ridding themselves of a corrupt regime that took away their rights and left them in poverty has got to help.

May God bless the Egyptian people.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

NYC Smoking Ban is Civic Disservice

Times Square, New York City, one of 1,700 parks and plazas
where smoking will be banned under a new City ordinance.


By Evan Mantyk
Epoch Times Staff
Feb 7, 2011

Do you want someone next to you in the park smoking, or do you want someone next to you in the park smoking and casting nervous glances at you- hoping that you don’t threaten to report them to the police?

That is the reality behind the city’s impending ban on smoking in public areas like parks, beaches, and public plazas, including the large one in Times Square. The law is considered one of, if not the widest reaching smoking ban in the country. But you can expect no new police staff will be added to enforce it.

Councilwoman Gale Brewer, the bill's main sponsor, said that she anticipates the ban will mostly be self-enforced by New Yorkers, according to the Associated Press. Basically, one New Yorker lights up in a park, the next one is irritated by the smoking and says: “I’m going to report you to the police.” The smoking New Yorker is then scared into putting the cigarette out or leaving the park.

Certainly less smoking or no smoking is good for New Yorkers’ health; but think about it— what kind of New Yorker reports a fellow New Yorker for smoking a cigarette outside in the open air? Not one I would want to be around.

And this could just be the beginning. The City University of New York is planning to ban smoking on all of its campuses next year.

These bans do not seem like a move to truly improve the quality of life in our city, like the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars in 2003, but rather like an antiquated, big brother-ish move by city officials hoping to impress themselves and others with what they have accomplished.

Smokers enjoy cigarettes on
a New York City balcony,
an activity that is now banned
under the new ordinance.

I am a non-smoking political independent. The unfortunate reality is that politicians survive off of laws and bills and coming up with new and ostensibly better ways to govern. The truly great politician will be the one who is willing to once in a while approach governing from the perspective of reducing laws and appealing to a higher power, whether that be public awareness, capitalist forces, fate, faith, or (if you prefer a smoking theme) the inextinguishable flame of integrity that lights the human spirit.

In this case the issue behind the law being created is second hand smoke

“By voting to prohibit smoking in all 1,700 City parks and 14 miles of beaches, the City Council will help us protect more New Yorkers from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke – particularly children who suffer from asthma,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement.

“The statistics don’t lie: second hand smoke kills. With this bill, all New Yorkers can now breathe easier and breathe cleaner air,” said Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

But, instead of creating more laws to reduce the chance of second hand smoke in public areas, why not focus on creating more public area for New Yorkers, smokers and non-smokers alike. It actually wouldn’t be that hard at all since large portions of park space in the city are often closed off from the public.

Most of my trips to Madison Square Park with my wife and two kids have been filled with comments on what a complete waste the usually fenced off lawn area is. Sure, the grass is well kept and pristinely green, but most of the time it is off limits to the public.

The closed off grass is like our city lawmakers, trying to look so perfect but really just doing this city a disservice.

Evan Mantyk can be reached at

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 and The Berne Convention on Literary and Artistic Works, Article 10, the news clippings, audio, and images used in this posting are made available without profit for research and educational purposes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Are Some Cops So Hostile to Marijuana Policy Reform?

This article by Rob Kampia was recently in Huffington Post:

A few years ago, when the Marijuana Policy Project was lobbying the Minnesota legislature to pass a modest medical marijuana bill, the state prosecutors association led the opposition. Rank-and-file police from the Twin Cities left their beats to fill up committee hearing rooms — in uniform, with handguns strapped to their waists — in an attempt to intimidate the state legislators on the committees.

And law enforcement lied, lied, lied, so much so that we started distributing daily “Law Enforcement Lie of the Day” videos to all state legislators and political reporters in the state. We also slammed the leading local prosecutor’s office with phone calls from angry constituents; he privately threatened to arrest us for “obstructing justice.” I almost wish he had arrested us so that he would have had to explain why trying to help sick people interferes with justice, but he didn’t.

For a couple years, it was all-out warfare, but we finally passed a medical marijuana bill through the legislature in May 2009, only to see Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) veto the bill, saying he preferred to “stand with law enforcement.”

State prosecutors, police, sheriffs, and attorneys general — not to mention federal DEA and FBI agents — are almost universally opposed to marijuana policy reform measures in every state, to the point where they actually spend time and taxpayer money campaigning and lobbying against us. Why?

1. IGNORANCE: For the most part, rank-and-file cops aren’t trained scientists or policy experts. They don’t spend much time reading medical studies or public policy analyses, and they generally don’t have much knowledge about the issue beyond how it directly affects their jobs. When presented with such information, they tend to listen to the people they encounter most in their work. Unfortunately, those people are almost always government officials or those with a vested interest in keeping marijuana illegal, such as drug treatment specialists. Since this information comes from “trusted sources,’ it’s usually accepted as fact, and differing viewpoints are therefore ignored.

2. JOB SECURITY: Before MPP helped decriminalize marijuana possession in Massachusetts in November 2008, we learned that marijuana-possession arrests accounted for 6% of all arrests in that state each year. So, to some extent, law enforcement was opposing our ballot initiative because they were concerned that some of them might need to be laid off if there were fewer “criminals” to arrest and prosecute. As for me, I never thought that 6% of law enforcement would be laid off; more likely, we were freeing up law enforcement to go after real criminals. Which leads me to…

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: According to the FBI, 48 law-enforcement officers nationwide were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2009, and none of these were killed by enforcing drug laws. It makes sense that going after murderers would be more dangerous than sniffing under college students’ doors. But policing exists to make society safer, and hunting down nonviolent marijuana users at the expense of thousands of unsolved assaults, rapes, and murders does nothing to accomplish this.

4. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: It’s hard for any person to change his or her political opinion after years of believing that opinion. So you can imagine how it would be even harder to change your opinion on an issue after you’ve ruined the lives of hundreds or thousands of people by arresting them on that issue. In other words, once a cop arrests marijuana users, testifies against them in court, and moves up the political food chain because of all this, it’s almost impossible for that cop to then declare, “I was wrong.”

Thankfully, there’s an organization of principled law enforcement professionals who are neither ignorant, self-serving, nor mentally calcified. I’m talking about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization that deserves your wholehearted support.

And there is another ray of hope: When I talk to cops on the beat in the District of Columbia, where I live, I ask them, “What’s the worst crime you usually have to deal with?” They almost always answer, “Domestic violence.” I ask, “Is marijuana involved in that?” They laugh and say, “Never. It’s almost always alcohol.” So should marijuana be decriminalized, or maybe even legalized? “Probably, but the higher-ups would never go for that,” they say.

So there you have it: There are plenty of police officers who see the futility and unfairness of marijuana prohibition up close, but most law enforcement officials with real authority support marijuana prohibition. Why the discrepancy?

The most obvious explanation is that the higher-ups are (1) more likely to be appointed or hired by mayors and city councils, and (2) responsible for presenting departmental budgets to those politicians every year. So perhaps there’s a fifth reason why so many law enforcement officials are hostile…

5. FEAR OF OUT-OF-TOUCH POLITICIANS: Politicians are far behind the public when it comes to understanding the harms of marijuana prohibition. Whether politicians are afraid of being perceived as “soft on crime,” of sticking their necks out on what is still a fairly contentious issue, or of offending particular special interest groups, opposition remains high among elected representatives. Law enforcement officials looking for bigger budgets and better jobs will echo these politicians ad nauseum, providing them with political cover and legitimacy. And there we have a self-perpetuating cycle.

This is why it’s important to engage law enforcement on this issue at every opportunity. Whether it is the cop on your corner or the chief of police, opening the dialogue is vitally important.