Sunday, January 28, 2007

Fifty Years Ago

I just turned fifty, so I thought I'd post a bit of history that interested me (since I am now officially history, myself!). So here goes...

Fifty years ago, a Muslim terrorist organization waged a campaign against the imperialist Western nation that had ruled the country for some hundred years. The campaign had lasted for four years and was insanely brutal. The terrorists used bombs and the killing of innocents as their primary weapon. They claimed they were the true patriots of the country and were against the foreign occupiers. They were largely financed by other countries who had specific global political reasons for their support. The terrorists wanted an Islamist state and the Western "occupiers" wanted peace and stability. Clearly, the people of this country were better off with the foreign occupiers who had brought modern medicine and economic prosperity to the country which was poor beyond Western understanding.

The ruling imperialists fought this war against the terrorists with great vigor. In 1957, they had 400,000 troops in the country waging war against the extremists. The cost in 1957 dollars was $4 million a day. More than 55,000 military and civilian lives had been claimed in the conflict. Much like the present Muslim terrorist conflicts, the primary victims of the Muslim extremists were fellow Muslims. Even in the home country of the colonialists, the bulk of the victims of terrorist attacks were Muslims.

The country was a Third World outpost for the colonial power, rich in oil and strategically placed for military purposes. News reports of the time used the word, "terrorist" to describe the rebels who fought against the colonial power. Bombings and the massacres of civilians who aided the colonialists or refused to fight them were common. In one such incident, all of the male members of a village were slaughtered, for their loyalty to the colonial power. Three hundred boys and men were killed and mutilated. Only one survivor was found, who related how the rebels had gunned down the male civilians with a complete absence of mercy.

Fifty years later, we are seeing this macabre dance played out again and again. When will it stop? In 1957, the imperialist "occupiers" were the French. The Arab terrorists were located in Algeria. Today, Algeria has been free of the colonialists for over forty years. The socialist government has been largely military-ruled for the entire time of their independence. Algeria would have been a modern, secular democracy, had the French won the war against the terrorists. That was not to be, however, and the result has been disastrous. It remains poor, violent and war-torn.

I don't know about you, but not even considering the would-be Millenialist Bomber, Ahmed Ressam's Algerian citizenship, this doesn't make me optimistic for the future of Iraq or any other Middle Eastern country.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

THE Auto Show!

I'm sitting here at the computer, composing a post about my trip to Detroit this morning to visit the North American International Auto Show, sipping a homebrewed ESB and diggin' on some awesome tunes, courtesy of Motor City Josh. Meanwhile, I'm composing an exam to make the 17 students in my college class just miserable! Life is Goooood!

Anyway, this was my umpteenth time at the real car show, the Motor City car show, having lived in Detroit or near there for most of my years. I had a great time! I took my son, Beerme3, who is just about to turn 20, next week and he seemed to have a good time as well.

Last week I got a cool digital camera so I could take some pics and send them to my other son, Beerme2, who lives in Atlanta. He likes cars alot! So I took a bunch of photos and sent him a few. The pics at the top are of Beerme3 in a Mitsubishi Eclipse and a cool, GM concept car, called the "Efijy". Retro with a twist or two!

If anyone reading this has never been to the Detroit Auto Show, you're missing out! It is lots of fun to check out what's new, what's being planned and what all the newest gadgets are. See ya next year!

I have a companion blog at Multiply, which is kind of like MySpace, but less popular (sorry, that's my style). Anyway, I can post music and photos and videos, there, so if you're inclined, check it out at Brewmiker's Tavern
I promise to post a few more pictures there when I get the chance!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Medical Marijuana

Among the things that I frequently criticize the Bush administration for is their dogged determination to continue the WOD (War on Drugs), despite the paucity of evidence for its effectiveness. Add to that fault the flagrant disdain for "states' rights" shown by much of this federal anti-drug action and you've got a federal government that worries me.

On Wednesday, the federal government rode down on 11 legal medical marijuana distributors in Los Angeles. They confiscated the product and detained several people present, though did not make any arrests. It would be reasonable to assume they also confiscated customer data, as well. Hat tip to Radley Balko and his The Agitator blog for this news and for all of the excellent information he presents with such wit and accuracy.

Unlike most people in this country, I believe all drugs should be legal for adults. I am aware that the consequences this might have but am certain the overall effect would be preferable to our current practice of prohibition. But even if though this view may be a minority view, the support for decriminalization of marijuana-or the legalization of it for medical purposes-is far more widespread. I know several people who've told me that marijuana is the only drug they used that had an affect on their appetite, while going through chemotherapy. Other drugs were either ineffective or had unacceptable side-effects.

As a law enforcement officer for over twenty years, I have seen the adverse effects of drugs on people and society. The fact is, though, that the adverse effects of the prohibition of drugs has been even worse. Many other law enforcement officers are aware of the problems with drug prohibition and are speaking out on the subject more and more frequently.It has become common practice for police agencies to perform even routine warrant services with the support of a full SWAT team, resulting in several unnecessary deaths and "wrong house" disasters. The current law in Michigan has changed significantly over the years as a direct result of the war on drugs, to the point now, that a person can be stopped for a driving infraction (or the appearance of a driving infraction), deemed by a police officer to be under the influence (by a series of extremely subjective "sobriety tests", of dubious validity), and forced to submit to a blood test at the risk of arrest and drivers license restriction. If the blood test shows any concentration of marijuana, the charge is Driving Under the Influence of drugs. This result does not depend upon the driver's actual sobriety but on the presence of a prohibited substance in his blood; one that may have ceased affecting his driving skills as long ago as one month!

The prison population is surging in this country, due partly to the tough enforcement of drug laws. While only about one percent of the prisoners in this country are serving time for only the use and distribution of marijuana, nearly ten percent of the probationers are serving probation for it. When you add in those who were sent back to prison for marijuana use, the numbers become rather high, indeed(pardon the pun). Far more marijuana-users are dealt with in the kangaroo-like misdemeanor courts, paying the very beast that works so hard at destroying their lives. For example, when a person is charged with these drug misdemeanors, they are most likely to be offered a plea, which they will most often accept, guilty or not, because the cost of fighting it is more severe than accepting the punishment. The result? Probation and continuous drug testing supplied by a private corporation that makes millions off these miserable marijuana smokers (yeah, they pay the their right to be pulled into a drug testing facility at some bureaucrat's whim!). Add to that numerous other fees and fines and you see the individual is swamped by the government practice of prohibiting a simple plant. Sure the business is good for criminal attorneys and the county and state prosecutors' offices but the money is supplied by low-wage earning people who broke a very minor law. Usually the treatment they receive makes it more difficult for them to get a job and be more productive, causing further criminal activity. It is a cottage industry that supplies its own customers!

But what of the trouble this drug causes, you might ask. Have you recently seen any marauding bands of marijuana smokers rioting in the streets? How about a marijuana smoker who must rob the local liquor store to pay for the drug? Nah. The fact is that marijuana smokers do not normally engage in criminal activity, other than their pot use. Now, you might see a few breaking New York's ban on the consumption of trans fats, but that's about the extent of the marijuana-users' threat to society.

Finally, the fact is that the people of California have voted to allow the use of medical marijuana in their state. It is certainly their prerogative to regulate this practice as they see fit but it is unconscionable for the federal government to arrest California residents for an act that is legal under California law! What's next for the federal golem? Ignore the recent laws in several states outlawing the seizure of private property, for another private person's gain, via eminent domain? How about asserting federal law over state law for the criminal sanctions applied to certain crimes such as Criminal Sexual Conduct? Some states' have far more restrictive penalties for the sex abuse of children than the federal laws prescribe. This slippery slope is more than apparent.

It is apparent this administration (and the federal government, in general) is expanding the power of the federal government in more than one way. This exercise in federalism should be denounced by all right-thinking Americans. Let the states and the localities decide what their own laws should be and insist the federal government leave them alone to live as they want!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Twenty Four

Twenty-Four hours in a day, twenty-four beers in a case: coincidence? I think not!

I decided to write about the television show that seems to be really catching fire this season: "24".
First off, disclaimer: I've been a huge fan of the show since it's inception, having watched every episode and I actually own seasons two and four (Christmas presents from my sons). Jack Bauer kicks ass! I haven't talked much about my enjoyment of the show because, frankly, it's a guilty pleasure. The show is hugely implausible on almost every level. It's blow 'em up, shoot-first, ask-questions-later- fare at its best, though.

The show follows twenty-four hours in the day of Counter Terrorism Unit agent, Jack Bauer, on a real-time basis; that is, each hour of the show is an hour of time in Jack's day. That in itself makes it one of the more unique television shows in history. But 24 is so much more.

The first season aired in November 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks, making it about as relevant as any TV show on the set. It deals primarily with the government response to terrorist acts. Each season, a new cataclysmic terrorist threat arises to test the government's ability to respond, and Jack's ability to outwit the bad guys.

Recently, the show has been the talk of the nation, as I've heard Rush Limbaugh dedicate his show today to discussing last night's season 6 opener, as well as Scott Ott suggesting Jack Bauer might be an effective negotiator for Bush's Iranian problems. I've also heard critics lately saying that the show is a thinly disguised plot to bolster chauvinist, war-mongering attitudes among the electorate. Well, if you want to see the kind of blood and gore, veins in your teeth movies that I loved as a youth, in which John Wayne and Clint Eastwood saved the day and turned down the girl, 24 is just right.

The only criticism I have with the show is the unrealistic aspects tend to bother me. Most of us can't get a cell phone to work for us half the time but Jack Bauer can download satellite images and video on his phone, while the clock ticks on a nuclear device certain to destroy Los Angeles, in seconds. In yesterday's episode, there were a number of implausible situations and actions that detracted from my enjoyment of the show. I would predict, based on the opener, a lot more of the same this season. It seems, as I aired my fears to my wife before last night's show, anything that becomes popular becomes cheaper. Oh, but I'll be watching. You can bet on that!

One thing more: The two hour premier last night went by faster than any show I've ever watched. That says a lot about the show. It's a fast-paced, action-packed thriller, every week. The two-hour second episode airs tonight at 8PM. I'm teaching class, so the wife has been strongly encouraged to tape it for me...