Human Rights Watch condemns drug criminalization

More and more people are seeing the obvious. It's just a shame that it has taken decades and so many ruined lives.

'Drug Criminalization Inherently Incompatible with Human Rights,' Says Human Rights Watch (Alternet)

On the same day as the President's address, Human Rights Watch released their annual watch report, in which they declared that "drug criminalization is inherently incompatible with human rights."

The report makes note of how drug laws further entrench the wildly unequal nature of the American criminal justice system, where blacks are ten times more likely to receive a drug conviction than whites despite similar rates of using and selling. It also noted the now familiar statistic that 2.2 million people in the world's oldest constitutional republic are in prison or jail, the highest number in the world--a figure fattened by the number of those incarcerated for low-level drug offenses.

former TSA screener tells all

Jason Edward Harrington gives us the inside story on the TSA, especially the farce of the Rapiscan Systems full-body scanners:

Dear America, I Saw You Naked (POLITICO Magazine)

At the conclusion of our crash course, one of the officers in our class asked him to tell us, off the record, what he really thought about the machines.

“They’re shit,” he said, shrugging. He said we wouldn’t be able to distinguish plastic explosives from body fat and that guns were practically invisible if they were turned sideways in a pocket.

We quickly found out the trainer was not kidding: Officers discovered that the machines were good at detecting just about everything besides cleverly hidden explosives and guns. The only thing more absurd than how poorly the full-body scanners performed was the incredible amount of time the machines wasted for everyone.

why vilifying and hurtful speech is important

Ken White nails it:

Your Criticism of My Holocaust Analogy Is Like Yet ANOTHER Holocaust | Popehat

Vigorous and hurtful and unpleasant speech is what we have instead of violence. Our ability to level such viscerally satisfying attacks on speech we don't like is a crucial part of what convinces us, as a nation, not to censor speech we don't like. In Europe, Tom Perkins might face official sanctions for saying the wrong thing about the Holocaust; here, he faces late-night jokes and insulting cartoons and the contempt of many. I like our way better.

Russian guy kills over poetry vs. prose argument

I have argued that there is no hard line between poetry and prose, but I've never made that argument with a knife.

As the author notes, "All we can really say for sure is...the real truth of genres is that comedy and tragedy coexist easily". I'd almost welcome seeing news of a murder in Bmore inspired by a literary dispute rather than the drug trade or a pair of shoes or somebody looking at somebody funny.

Poetry-vs.-Prose Argument Leads to Stabbing Death in Russia (Gawker)

At risk of being somewhat reductionist, here is a bit of advice: Russians love poetry. Fuck with that at your own risk. If, for example, you tell a learned Russian that "the only real literature is prose," don't be surprised when he shivs you in the face.

According the the Russian news service RIA-Novosti:

A former teacher was detained in Russia's Urals after being accused of stabbing an acquaintance to death in a dispute about literary genres, investigators said Wednesday.

The 67-year-old victim insisted that "the only real literature is prose," the Sverdlovsk Region's branch of the Investigative Committee said.

GOP Congress-critter threatens to kill reporter

Another Tea Party winner. "Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this f**king balcony."

Republican Congressman threatens to kill reporter after State of the Union (Boing Boing)

...After giving a terse statement to an NY1 reporter, [Congressman Michael Grimm] was asked about the ongoing issue of his campaign finance. He declined to discuss the matter and stormed off, then returned a moment later, apparently unaware that the camera was still rolling, and threatened to "throw [the reporter] off this f**king balcony." Grimm followed this with "you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy."

...Grimm is under investigation by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York for this, and for other finance irregularities, including accepting cash donations larger than $100, and for laundering a donation of $25,000 through a third party.


...Grimm is a former US Marine who served in Iraq, and then worked for the FBI. While at the Bureau, he was investigated for abusing his authority: threatening his date's husband ("I'll f**king make him disappear where nobody will find him") and pulling a gun in a nightclub.

Alaskan town isolated by avalance caused by warm spell

Sub-zero wind chills forecast for Bmore tonight, while Alaska is melting. Climate change may destroy human civilization but at least its interesting, amiright? (Valdez is apparently the port town for which the ill-fated Exxon Valdez was named and out of which she sailed. The determination of irony inherent in the town that is the namesake once removed of one of the most famous oil spills being the victim of a disaster probably related to climate change, is left as an exercise for the reader.)

Warm temps blamed for massive avalanche that cut off Alaskan town (NBC News)

A warmer winter is being blamed for the mammoth Alaskan avalanche that has cut off a port city’s sole road to the outside — stoking fears of flash floods and future landslides.

Snowy debris hundreds of feet long and up to 40 feet deep slammed onto Valdez’s Richardson Highway early Friday and again on Saturday.

Obama's counterproductive cannabis hypocrisy

Of course there's nothing really new here, re-legalization in Colorado and Washington only throws Obama's hypocrisy and our government's inadvertent (I presume) support for drug cartels into sharper focus

Obama's Pot Problem (Rolling Stone)

Ironically, if Obama succeeds in gutting the new state laws, he will essentially be serving the interests of foreign drug cartels. A study by the nonpartisan think tank Instituto Mexicano Para la Competitividad found that legalization in Colorado and Washington would deal a major blow to the cartels, depriving them of nearly a quarter of their annual drug revenues – unless the federal government decides to launch a "vigorous intervention." If that happens, pot profits would continue to flow to the cartels instead of to hard-hit state budgets. "Something's wrong," says Stamper, the former Seattle police chief, "when the lawbreakers and the law enforcers are on the same side."

In the end, the best defense against federal intervention may be other states standing up against prohibition. While pro-pot sentiment is strongest in the West, recent polls show that legalization is now beginning to enjoy majority support nationwide. "We're beyond the tipping point," says Stamper. Spurred by the victories in Colorado and Washington, legislators are already moving to legalize pot in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine and Iowa. "It's time for the Justice Department to recognize the sovereignty of the states," Gov. Jerry Brown of California declared. "We don't need some federal gendarme to come and tell us what to do."

Obama, the former constitutional-law professor, has relied on the expansive powers of the chief executive when it serves him politically – providing amnesty to a generation of Dream Act immigrants, or refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. A one-time pothead who gave a shout-out to his dealer in his high school yearbook, Obama could single-handedly end the insanity of marijuana being treated like heroin under the Controlled Substances Act with nothing more than an executive order.

Silicon Valley VC says 1% are like the Jews in Nazi Germany

From the Godwin's Law department: Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins equates protests against tech gentrification in San Francisco, and the more general growing pushback against decades of exploitation by the 1%, with the Nazis. Because the 1%ers are just like the Jews in Germany in 1938.

Silicon Valley Legend Compares Techie Backlash to Nazi Rampage (Valleywag)

Titled "Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?," the brief letter in the Wall Street Journal accomplishes nothing more than a series of horrible attempts at analogy:

I would call attention to the parallels of Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."

That the WSJ would print this letter is further proof (if any was needed) that it has gone from a biased but sane news outlet, into another venue for Murdoch's brand of extreme yellow journalism, a Fox News with a bigger vocabulary.

Abraham Lincoln: sword-swinging badass

From the "how'd we never cover *this* in history class?" department: a debate about banking in Illinois led Abe Lincoln into an interesting confrontation...

Abraham Lincoln's Duel

Lincoln refused to retract his remarks. He returned Shields's letter with the request that Shields rewrite it in a more "gentlemanly" fashion.

Instead, Shields challenged Lincoln to a duel. It would be held in Missouri, where dueling was still legal.

Since Lincoln was challenged by Shields he had the privilege of choosing the weapon of the duel. He chose cavalry broadswords "of the largest size." "I didn't want the d—-d fellow to kill me, which I think he would have done if we had selected pistols," he later explained. For his own part, he did not want to kill Shields, but "felt sure [he] could disarm him" with a blade. At six feet, four inches tall, Lincoln planned to use his height to his advantage against Shields, who stood at a mere five feet, nine inches tall.

The day of the duel, September 22, arrived and the combatants met at Bloody Island, Missouri to face death or victory. As the two men faced each other, with a plank between them that neither was allowed to cross, Lincoln swung his sword high above Shields to cut through a nearby tree branch. This act demonstrated the immensity of Lincoln’s reach and strength and was enough to show Shields that he was at a fatal disadvantage....

"47 Ronin": didn't do the homework

I had a bad feeling as soon as I heard about the "47 Ronin" movie; Jana Monji's review says that it's worse that I thought, that the producers didn't do the homework at all. (Warning: TV Tropes link. Possible serious time-suck.)

On "47 Ronin," Samurai Hair and Other Cultural Confusions | Far Flungers | Roger Ebert

The movie "47 Ronin" has a half-white character teaching the Japanese how to handle Japanese beasts and the true nature of bushidō. It fuses Japanese and Chinese culture with Western in a way that might be more digestible if this were food and not a movie.

The Variety article by Setoodeh and Foundas says that the film when it opened in Japan "needed support from the region, where the cast was well recognized. But it never gained traction there...Market research showed the key demographic of young men didn't buy enough tickets."

Why would young Japanese men buy tickets to this movie? The advertising for the movie clearly shows that the production team doesn't understand what makes a woman sexy in a kimono. (It's not the cleavage, it's the back of a woman's bare neck and the glimpse of her white foot.) The trailers depict the samurai without the hairstyle of their class. Should a tale about Japan seem more Japanese?

I've been to the gravesite of the 47 ronin in Tokyo. Even on a chilly and rainy spring day, people came to visit and make offerings. I don't fully understand it, but the myth is a cultural touchstone for Japan. I don't believe that "cultural appropriation" is a real thing, but this is a great example of Getting It Wrong.


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