Category: Law

Weed the People

WeedThePeople

“A line this long that never ends and everybody is happy,” marveled Jim Leighton, a 30-year Oregon resident. “Isn’t that great?” He and some 1,300 others stood in a queue that snaked around the block in the sweltering Portland heat Friday afternoon, waiting for entry to an event where they could get up to seven grams of marijuana for nothing more than a smile and a handshake.

Oregon is the fourth state in the United States, in addition to the District of Columbia, to legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults 21 years and older. But even after parts of the law went into effect Wednesday that legalized possession and growing of small amounts, marijuana still cannot be sold to the general public.

So growers and medical dispensaries at Weed the People found their way around the law by giving away their weed for free, some hoping to use it as a marketing tool later…

On midnight Wednesday as the law went into effect, hundreds gathered on Burnside bridge in downtown Portland in celebration. The bridge was billowing with smoke as the clock struck midnight. But while the original plan was to hand out free samples of marijuana, the overwhelming turnout halted the giveaway.

Two days later, the free handouts proceeded as planned at Weed the People, thought to be the first formal event with free cannabis giveaways – after attendees paid a $40 admission fee to attend.

The alcohol-free event lasted for seven hours, as attendees mulled around to test out smoking devices; relaxed on comfy chairs and listened to records in a “chill out area”; and waited in a line that wound through the inside of a warehouse to enter the “Grow Garden”, the highly secured and roped off area where they could pick up their free goodies. One growing entity, Green Bodhi Gardens, said it brought more than 2,000 grams divided into one-gram jars in anticipation of the crowds…

Restrictions notwithstanding, “people want to celebrate,” said event organizer Josh Taylor. “Oregonians are big on sharing!”

The easiest thing to share still is Good News. As more and more folks are exposed to the reality of attitude-alteration with substances like cannabis versus craptastic amounts of alcohol, mellow stoners versus combative drunks, progress towards an understanding of reality outside the boundaries of conventional politics continues to grow – and grow.

Our culture, our government, our politicians may be characterized by ignorance, stupidity, superstition and bigotry. The fact remains that exposure to reality changes folks’ minds. It’s always too gradual for many; but, it’s inevitable. Even faster if you get on board the freedom train. :)

Anesthesiologist trash-talks sedated patient — $500K worth!

colonoscopy

Sitting in his surgical gown inside a large medical suite in Reston, Va., a Vienna man prepared for his colonoscopy by pressing record on his smartphone, to capture the instructions his doctor would give him after the procedure.

But as soon as he pressed play on his way home, he was shocked out of his anesthesia-induced stupor: He found that he had recorded the entire examination and that the surgical team had mocked and insulted him as soon as he drifted off to sleep.

In addition to their vicious commentary, the doctors discussed avoiding the man after the colonoscopy, instructing an assistant to lie to him, and then placed a false diagnosis on his chart…

There was much more. So the man sued the two doctors and their practices for defamation and medical malpractice and, last week, after a three-day trial, a Fairfax County jury ordered the anesthesiologist and her practice to pay him $500,000…

The jury awarded the man $100,000 for defamation — $50,000 each for the comments about the man having syphilis and tuberculosis — and $200,000 for medical malpractice, as well as the $200,000 in punitive damages. Though the remarks by Ingham and Shah perhaps did not leave the operating room in Reston, experts in libel and slander said defamation does not have to be widely published, merely said by one party to another and understood by the second party to be fact, when it is not…

Because he was going to be fully anesthetized, the man decided to turn on his cellphone’s audio recorder before the procedure so it would capture the doctor’s post-operation instructions, the suit states. But the man’s phone, in his pants, was placed beneath him under the operating table and inadvertently recorded the audio of the entire procedure, court records show. The doctors’ attorneys argued that the recording was illegal, but the man’s attorneys noted that Virginia is a “one-party consent” state, meaning that only one person involved in a conversation need agree to the recording.

The recording captured Ingham mocking the amount of anesthetic needed to sedate the man, the lawsuit states…”…The discussion soon turned to the rash on the man’s penis, followed by…comments implying that the man had syphilis or tuberculosis. The doctors then discussed “misleading and avoiding” the man after he awoke

Ingham then mocked the man for attending Mary Washington College, once an all-women’s school, and wondered aloud whether her patient was gay, the suit states. Then the anesthesiologist said, “I’m going to mark ‘hemorrhoids’ even though we don’t see them and probably won’t,” and did write a diagnosis of hemorrhoids on the man’s chart, which the lawsuit said was a falsification of medical records.

After declaring the patient a “big wimp,” Ingham reportedly said: “People are into their medical problems. They need to have medical problems.”

Stupid 101. Testimony included expert opinion that anesthesiologists should be aware that any patient might not be in a deep sleep and might recall hearing silly, irrelevant remarks. Catching the whole procedure as an audio recording was a plus that locked everything up for the lawsuit.

If you feel like RTFA, some of the recordings are available. :)

Thanks, Honeyman

Congratulations to our LGBT friends and relatives – Constitutional progress prevails

image
White House illuminated in celebration, tonight

A special Thank You to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is the sole traditional American conservative within that court. The sole honest conservative in that court. Willing to look forward, willing to join in building progress and understanding in a nation still wracked by divisions grounded in hate and fear on the Right.

Including the syllabus of the original filing, here is the Supreme Court’s decision [.pdf] – which Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

Mexico latest Latin nation to pass USA on legalizing same-sex marriage


Hiram Gonzalez married Severiano Chavez in ChihuahuaCheros/AC

His church turned him away, his family discouraged him from a public fight and the government of the state where he lives vowed it would never happen.

But it did. Hiram Gonzalez married his boyfriend, Severiano Chavez, last year in the northern state of Chihuahua, which, like most Mexican states, technically allows marriage only between a man and a woman.

Mr. Gonzalez and dozens of other gay couples in recent months have, however, found a powerful ally: Mexico’s Supreme Court.

In ruling after ruling, the court has said that state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals are discriminatory. Though the decisions have been made to little public fanfare, they have had the effect of legalizing gay marriage in Mexico without enshrining it in law…

As the United States awaits a landmark decision on gay marriage by the Supreme Court, the Mexican court’s rulings have added the country to a slowly growing list of Latin American nations permitting same-sex unions.

Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil already allow same-sex marriage. Chile plans to recognize same-sex civil unions this year; Ecuador approved civil unions in April; and Colombia grants same-sex couples many of the same rights extended to heterosexual married couples…

The shift in Mexico, the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil, is the product of a legal strategy that advocates used to bypass state legislatures, which have shown little inclination, and often hostility, to legalizing gay marriage.

In 2009, Mexico City, a large liberal island in this socially conservative country, legalized gay marriage — a first in Latin America. There have been 5,297 same-sex weddings there since then, some of them couples coming to the city from other states…

The Supreme Court upheld Mexico City’s law in 2010, adding that other states had to recognize marriages performed there.

Alex Ali Mendez, the lawyer pressing these cases, said the next step in the legal process was compiling enough injunctions in each state to reach a threshold under which the court could formally order state legislatures to rewrite their laws.

But experts said that Mexico had already reached a watershed.

A similar watershed exists among ordinary American citizens. Meaningless to Congress.

There are a fair number of judges in Mexico who hold to the traditions of law aiding the progress of their nation. Completely at odds with the philosophy of American conservatives and their pet judges on the Supreme Court. Progress for our nation, our people, means nothing to their theocratic minds. Preserving a backwards view of the past, as distorted as that may be, is their cardinal waypoint.

With politicians as corrupt as any in the hemisphere, Americans see the only exceptions being political action in blue states and the majority of federal courts. Still, when you get to the ultimate federal court in the nation, progress is held hostage to liars, frauds appointed by reactionary and cowardly hacks under Republican administrations.

Feds abuse another law — defendant charged with clearing his browser history


A law designed to prosecute corporate fraud – but that requires work, integrity, dedication

Khairullozhon Matanov is a 24-year-old former cab driver from Quincy, Massachusetts. The night of the Boston Marathon bombings, he ate dinner with Tamerlan and Dhzokhar Tsarnaev at a kebob restaurant in Somerville. Four days later Matanov saw photographs of his friends listed as suspects in the bombings on the CNN and FBI websites. Later that day he went to the local police. He told them that he knew the Tsarnaev brothers and that they’d had dinner together that week, but he lied about whose idea it was to have dinner, lied about when exactly he had looked at the Tsarnaevs’ photos on the Internet, lied about whether Tamerlan lived with his wife and daughter, and lied about when he and Tamerlan had last prayed together. Matanov likely lied to distance himself from the brothers or to cover up his own jihadist sympathies—or maybe he was just confused.

Then Matanov went home and cleared his Internet browser history.

Matanov continued to live in Quincy for over a year after the bombings. During this time the FBI tracked him with a drone-like surveillance plane that made loops around Quincy, disturbing residents. The feds finally arrested and indicted him in May 2014. They never alleged that Matanov was involved in the bombings or that he knew about them beforehand, but they charged him with four counts of obstruction of justice. There were three counts for making false statements based on the aforementioned lies and—remarkably—one count for destroying “any record, document or tangible object” with intent to obstruct a federal investigation. This last charge was for deleting videos on his computer that may have demonstrated his own terrorist sympathies and for clearing his browser history.

Matanov faced the possibility of decades in prison — twenty years for the records-destruction charge alone.

Federal prosecutors charged Matanov for destroying records under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a law enacted by Congress in the wake of the Enron scandal. The law was, in part, intended to prohibit corporations under federal investigation from shredding incriminating documents. But since Sarbanes-Oxley was passed in 2002 federal prosecutors have applied the law to a wider range of activities.

RTFA for all the details, all the analysis about what is reasonable – nothing the Feds want to do in this case.

Just like the Patriot Act, lousy policing leads to abuse of laws written for another purpose. Just like the Patriot act, abuse of constitutional rights is OK with incompetent cops who can’t begin to prove guilt under relevant law. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a local cop using the Patriot Act for parking violations.

K Street is paved with gold

A once-decrepit section of downtown Washington has become a luxury marketplace, feeding off the lavishly paid men and women successfully representing the political agenda of the corporate sector.

In 1993, when Tony Podesta, a top Washington lobbyist, moved his firm to G Street Northwest, the neighborhood was a skanky collection of warehouses, liquor stores and the remains of a red light district.

The money is flowing. Podesta’s own company made $25.1 million in lobbying fees last year, plus another $10 million for its public relations work. From Podesta’s office, it’s just a two-minute walk to the new City Center development and its deluxe retail offerings. Paul Stuart on I street sells a navy chalk stripe Italian suit for $4,984. Around the corner is Louis Vuitton, where the Président Classeur briefcase sells for $9,700. A half-block away is Hermès, manufacturer of the Birkin bag, one of which sold recently at auction in Hong Kong for $221,846.

Most lobbying compensation packages are closed to public view, but some – especially of top officials working for tax-exempt trade associations – are not. In 2012, National Journal identified 12 trade association executives making over $2 million a year.

Among the top earners in that select group were Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute, $6,428,872; Thomas J. Donohue, United States Chamber of Commerce, $4,761,900; and Thomas R. Kuhn, Edison Electric Institute, $4,006,893…

In 2014, Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America, conducted a study for the Sunlight Foundation that revealed that there were 799 registered Washington lobbyists whose fees for at least one year between 1998 and 2012 exceeded $1 million…

In the 2014 elections, 31,976 donors — equal to roughly one percent of one percent of the total population of the United States — accounted for an astounding $1.18 billion in disclosed political contributions at the federal level…

Former members of the do-nothing, know-nothing club called Congress can easily double or triple his or her government salary when they leave office. Often unearned in the first place.

Campaign reform, taking the money out of politics is supposed to originate with this crowd.

Don’t hold your breath waiting.

Weapons violence affects one in four kids

More than one-quarter of all children nationwide have been exposed to violence involving a weapon…

Over 17.5 million children (26.5% of the sample) ages 2 to 17 have either been victimized by weapons, such as a knife, gun, stick, or rock, or witnessed victimization with a weapon, reported Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD, of the University of New Hampshire, and colleagues.

Of those surveyed, 2 million children (12.5%) experienced direct victimization, while 13.1% reported indirect victimization, they wrote in Pediatrics.

The study separately examined weapons with a “high lethality risk,” such as guns and knives, with 3.1% of the victimized sample reporting at least one direct (2.1%) or indirect (0.9%) incident involving these types of weapons in the past year. Risk factors included those children living with a non-parent adult caregiver (7.9%) and older age (6.3% of 14- to 17-year-olds).

Not surprisingly, those victimized by a knife or gun were more likely to be associated with personal weapon carrying (13.2%), peer weapon carrying in the past year (12.3%), and victimization at least seven times (“poly-victimization status”) in the last year (8.4%)…

Mitchell told MedPage Today in a separate interview that while other previous studies about youth and violence have examined how personal weapon carrying leads to negative outcomes, this study wanted to explore the effect that trauma had on the children involved.

“The results underscore the importance of health professionals asking all children about their exposure to weapons and remembering that it is particularly essential to do so in children with histories of victimization,” she said. “Moreover, when young people have been exposed to weapons, the mental health consequences must be assessed and addressed.”

Tidy, taut and timely, this report brings professionalism and perhaps a bit too much objectivity to the lives of children affected by violence. Too many concern themselves only with their “right” to involve violent means in defense of whatever they wish to defend, to punish anyone they wish to punish. Absent law and lawfulness.

Still, I wish it could serve as testimony to change laws used over and again to defend circumstances that lead to abuse and death for children more in need of care than weapons.

Apple, tech companies warn Obama, again, against violating privacy


“Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data”

In a letter delivered to President Barack Obama on Monday, two trade groups comprised of some of the largest tech companies in the U.S. asked the White House to reject government policies designed to undermine encryption systems built to keep consumer data private.

Both the Information Technology Industry Council and the Software and Information Industry Association were signatories of the letter…The groups represent a number of companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and IBM, among others.

“We are opposed to any policy actions or measures that would undermine encryption as an available and effective tool,” the letter reads…

Law enforcement officials, looking for access to data that could potentially help in criminal investigations, have repeatedly called on private sector firms to install backdoors into their existing security infrastructure. They argue technology companies like Apple are blocking access to information deemed vital to criminal investigations. Further, Apple is advertising the fact that iOS users are “above the law,” officials said…

For its part, industry representatives argue encryption is not merely a perk, but a necessity for many consumers. Some attribute the modern data privacy movement to revelations concerning the existence of government surveillance programs, as leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The general public has since become hyper-sensitive to prying eyes, especially those attached to government bodies.

“Consumer trust in digital products and services is an essential component…” I’ll second that. For all the crapology from so-called constitutional scholars like the president, security presented as taking precedence over privacy is nothing more than sophistry. The sort of argument our original revolutionary forebears rose up against.

There is no less a need, today.

Dancing on police cars stops vampire ritual human sacrifice — Huh? Wha?

Authorities in Florida shared video of a man dancing on a marked sheriff’s office sport-utility vehicle in an incident he blamed on vampires.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office shared video on YouTube and Facebook showing Christian Radecki climbing atop a marked sheriff’s office SUV and performing a dance routine to songs including Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” and Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger.”

Radecki, who was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace and criminal mischief, told deputies a “woman with fangs” came to his door and told him a human sacrifice involving vampires was imminent.

“Therefore, Radecki made the conscious decision to get the Sheriff of Nottingham to help him stop the slaughter of small children,” the Cape Coral police report of the April 7 incident states.

Radecki told officers he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident and he has not been diagnosed with any mental health conditions.

Of course, the doctor who told him he didn’t have any mental health conditions – was probably one of the vampires.

Just in case family-values drug moralists want to try out reality…

Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record.

Whenever we debate similar measures in the U.S. — marijuana decriminalization, for instance — many drug-policy makers predict dire consequences. “If you make any attractive commodity available at lower cost, you will have more users,” former Office of National Drug Control Policy deputy director Thomas McLellan once said of Portugal’s policies. Joseph Califano, founder of the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, once warned that decriminalization would “increase illegal drug availability and use among our children.”

But in Portugal, the numbers paint a different story. The prevalence of past-year and past-month drug use among young adults has fallen since 2001, according to statistics compiled by the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which advocates on behalf of ending the war on drugs. Overall adult use is down slightly too. And new HIV cases among drug users are way down.

Now, numbers just released from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction paint an even more vivid picture of life under decriminalization: drug overdose deaths in Portugal are the second-lowest in the European Union….

Perhaps more significantly, the report notes that the use of “legal highs” — like so-called “synthetic” marijuana, “bath salts” and the like — is lower in Portugal than in any of the other countries for which reliable data exists. This makes a lot of intuitive sense: why bother with fake weed or dangerous designer drugs when you can get the real stuff? This is arguably a positive development for public health in the sense that many of the designer drugs that people develop to skirt existing drug laws have terrible and often deadly side effects…

…It’s very clear that decriminalization hasn’t had the severe consequences that its opponents predicted. As the Transform Drug Policy Institute says in its analysis of Portugal’s drug laws, “The reality is that Portugal’s drug situation has improved significantly in several key areas. Most notably, HIV infections and drug-related deaths have decreased, while the dramatic rise in use feared by some has failed to materialise.”

Between opportunist reactionaries grabbing every superstition-based vote at hand plus liberal politicians generally playing at cowardly lions, I doubt we’ll have the chance anytime soon to consider science, reason or reality creeping into American policy.

From economics to climate, the Republican Party is committed to a platform cobbled together from myth and bigotry. Democrats play at populism as mediocre as the average reality TV show and dedicate their political leadership to underachievers.

Same as it ever was remains the American anthem.