Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rove's Political Hit On Gov. Siegelman Comes From The Top

This story is only going to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

The Republicans currently in charge in the state of Alabama are running the place as if it were a Third World banana republic. The depth of corruption, favoritism, cronyism, and ineptitude of Alabama's state government is breathtaking, and is just beginning to come to light.

Sweet Jesus, with all the real problems facing the state, they have an attorney general there who spends his time and the state's resources recording post-mortem duets with Johnny Cash and trying to enforce a sex toy ban!

So far, we know the following men are involved in the political "hit" against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman which resulted in his railroading on trumped-up charges and unjust imprisonment for nine months:

Karl Rove (Bush operative and right hand man)
Gov. Bob Riley (R., Ala.)
Atty. Gen. Troy King (R., Ala.)

Gov. Siegelman himself told me from his federal prison cell that "Karl Rove's fingerprints are all over" the politically motivated "taking out" of the popular Siegelman, the most successful Democrat in Alabama.

It doesn't take a genius to see that, from Rove, the dirty tendrils of this conspiracy reach all the way up to George W. Bush. Siegelman, before his release on bond, was the highest-ranking political prisoner of the Bush regime.

The worst of Siegelman's troubles came after he was asked in 2004 about meeting President Bush at a Governors' Conference a few years before. Gov. Siegelman said he found Bush "not very bright." Not so coincidentally, Karl Rove came sniffing around soon after.

Gov. Siegelman has now been asked to testify before Congress about the improper prosecution against him.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Gov. Siegelman Finally Freed: "We're A Long Way From The End Of This"
When the Republicans in power in my home state of Alabama run the place as if it were a Third World banana republic, that makes me mad. And that is exactly what they've been doing with the trumped up charges against, and unjust imprisonment of, the popular former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman. Siegelman's politically motivated prosecution, which he says was directed by Bush operative Karl Rove, is one of the most shameful and egregious examples of political cronyism and selective prosecution in Alabama's history. ~ Steve Elliott

New York Times
Published: March 29, 2008

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Former Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama, released from prison today on bond in a bribery case, said he was as convinced as ever that politics played a leading role in his prosecution.

In a telephone interview shortly after he walked out of a federal prison in Oakdale, La., Mr. Siegelman said there had been “abuse of power” in his case, and repeatedly cited the influence of Karl Rove, the former White House political director.

“His fingerprints are smeared all over the case,” Mr. Siegelman said, a day after a federal appeals court ordered him released on bond and said there were legitimate questions about his case.

Mr. Rove has strenuously denied any involvement in the conviction of the former governor, who was sentenced to serve seven years last June after being convicted in 2006. He could not immediately be reached for comment today.

Mr. Siegelman served nine months while his lawyers appealed a federal judge’s refusal to release him on bond, pending the ex-governor’s appeal of his conviction. That refusal was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Thursday.

The former governor, a Democrat, said he would “press” to have Mr. Rove answer questions about his possible involvement in the case before Congress, which has already held a hearing on Mr. Siegelman. On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee signaled its intention to have Mr. Siegelman testify about the nature of his prosecution.

In June of 2006 he was convicted by a federal jury here of taking $500,000 from Richard M. Scrushy, the former chief executive of the HealthSouth corporation, in exchange for an appointment to the state hospital licensing board. The money was to retire a debt from Mr. Siegelman’s campaign for a state lottery to pay for schools, and the ex-governor’s lawyers have insisted that it was no more than a routine political contribution.

On the telephone outside the prison today, Mr. Siegelman said he had confidence that the federal appeals court, which will now consider his larger appeal, would agree with his view of the case — that he was convicted for a transaction that regularly takes place in American politics.

Otherwise, Mr. Siegelman said, “every governor and every president and every contributor might as well turn themselves in, because it’s going to be open season on them.”

His case has become a flash point for Democratic contentions that politics influenced decisions by the Justice Department, fueled by testimony from an Alabama campaign operative that suggested Mr. Rove may have had some involvement.

In Alabama, the Siegelman case has inflamed partisan passions, with Republicans insisting that Mr. Siegelman’s term from 1998 to 2002 was deeply corrupted, and Democrats furious over what they depict as a years-long political witch-hunt.

Before his release earlier in the day, the ex-governor completed his prison chores for the day — mopping a barracks area — and waited for his wife and son to pick him up for the eight-hour drive to his home in Birmingham, Ala.

“It feels great to be out,” Mr. Siegelman said. “I wish I could say it was over. But we’re a long way from the end of this.”

The Original Story in the New York Times

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ex-Ala. Governor Siegelman Freed On Appeal; Testimony Sought By Congress

It's been a huge, huge day for imprisoned ex-Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. He started today in a prison cell in Louisiana, where he'd been unjustly incarcerated since last June, and Friday morning he's a free man.

First, a couple hours ago, the news broke that the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by John Conyers (D-Mich.), wanted Siegelman to testify before Congress about improper Republican influence over his obviously politically motivated prosecution (he's the most successful Democrat in Alabama); now, minutes ago, the GREAT news that Don is being released on appeal!

"It's a sweet day. He's an innocent man and he's been in prison for nine months," said Siegelman's attorney, Vince Kilborn.

Kilborn said Siegelman would be released from the Louisiana prison Friday morning after prison officials verify the court order with the 11th Circuit.

Siegelman has maintained that certain Republicans targeted him after he was elected governor in 1998 in an attempt to derail his political career.

Don's political imprisonment at the hands of the Bush Administration (courtesy of Bush attack dog Karl Rove) is one of the most shameful stories in recent political history. He is the highest-ranking public official to be held as a political prisoner by the Bush regime.

Can you believe the timing of the Governor's release -- just hours after his testimony had been requested by the House Judiciary Committee? Is this a coincidence? That seems unlikely.

According to a wire story by Bob Johnson of the Associated Press, a federal appeals court approved the release of Siegelman on bond today while he appeals his conviction in a corruption case.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the former governor had raised "substantial questions of fact and law" in challenging his conviction.

The once-popular Democrat began serving a sentence of more than seven years last June on his conviction on six bribery-related counts and one obstruction count. He has been serving the sentence at a federal prison in Oakdale, La.

House Panel Seeks Testimony From Imprisoned Ex-Governor of Alabama

AP News
Mar 27, 2008 14:47 EST

The House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department on Thursday to allow imprisoned former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman to testify before Congress about possible political influence over his prosecution.

Siegelman, a Democrat sentenced to serve more than seven years in a Louisiana prison, would travel to Washington in May under guard of the U.S. Marshals Service, said Melanie Roussell, a spokeswoman for the committee.

Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, believes Siegelman could provide important information about Justice Department practices under President Bush, Roussell said.

"The chairman ... believes he would have a lot to add to the committee's investigation into selective prosecution," she said.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment on the request.

A member of Siegelman's defense team said the former governor has agreed to testify.

"He's delighted to cooperate," attorney Vince Kilborn said. "There are no restrictions on questions they can ask him."

Democrats last year began reviewing Siegelman's 2006 corruption conviction as part of a broader investigation into allegations of political meddling in Justice affairs by the Bush administration.

Justice and the federal prosecutors who handled the prosecution have denied any political influence, emphasizing that Siegelman was convicted by a jury. But critics, including a group of former state attorneys general, have called for an independent review and said the case raises a number of questions.

The effort gained momentum after a Republican lawyer who had volunteered for Siegelman's re-election opponent — current Republican Gov. Bob Riley — said she overheard conversations suggesting that former White House adviser Karl Rove was talking with Justice officials about Siegelman's prosecution.

Last month, CBS's "60 Minutes" reported that a key witness against Siegelman said that prosecutors met with him some 70 times and had him repeatedly write out his testimony because they were frustrated with his recollection of events.

Grant Woods, a former Republican attorney general from Arizona who has criticized the prosecution, said the list of former attorneys general calling for a review continues to grow and now has about 55 signatures.

"It's really unprecedented to have that many people continuing to ask for an investigation," Woods said.

Personal testimony from the former governor, Woods said, could force lawmakers and the public to see Siegelman as a human being instead of as a partisan politician.

"I think if they see him live and in person the congressmen and congresswomen would be willing to take a new look at this," he said. "But I wouldn't hold my breath for the Justice Department to go along with it."

Siegelman was elected governor in 1998 and served one term before narrowly losing re-election to Riley in 2002, as reports of corruption investigations clouded Siegelman's administration.

Siegelman was originally indicted in 2004 on charges of conspiring to rig bids on state Medicaid contracts. Prosecutors dropped the case, however, after a judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to support key charges.

Siegelman was indicted again a year later in a separate bribery and corruption case.

In June 2006, he was convicted on six bribery-related charges and one obstruction of justice charge. He began serving his sentence last June.

Siegelman was accused of appointing then-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to an important hospital regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy arranging $500,000 in disguised contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery. Siegelman was also convicted of a separate obstruction of justice charge concerning $9,200 he received from a former lobbyist to help with the purchase of a motorcycle.

In prepared remarks for a speech Thursday to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco about public corruption, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said politics plays no role in the department's investigations.

"I consider it one of my paramount responsibilities to ensure that the department continues to handle its public corruption investigations and prosecutions in a consistent, nonpartisan and appropriate manner," Mukasey said. "Just as important, though, I also consider it my duty to ensure that the department continues to pursue public corruption wherever we find it."

A Personal Note From Governor Siegelman

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We Need To Get Smart About Marijuana

Rick Steves
March 25, 2008
Seattle Post-Intelligencer


As a parent helping two children navigate their teen years, and as a travel writer who has seen firsthand how Europe deals with its drug problem, I've thought a lot about U.S. drug policy -- particularly our criminalization of marijuana.

Europe, like the U.S., is dealing with a persistent drug-abuse problem. But unlike us, Europe, which treats drug abuse primarily as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue, measures the success of its drug policy in terms of pragmatic harm reduction.

Europeans seek a cure that isn't more costly than the problem. While the U.S. spends its tax dollars on police, courts and prisons, Europe fights drug abuse by funding doctors, counselors and clinics. European Union policymakers estimate that for each euro invested in drug education and counseling, they save 15 euros in police and health costs. Similar estimates have been made for U.S. health-based approaches by the Rand Corp. and others.

While Europeans are as firmly opposed to hard drugs as we are, the difference in how they approach marijuana is striking. Take the Netherlands, with its famously liberal marijuana laws. On my last trip to Amsterdam, I visited a "coffee shop" -- a cafe that openly and legally sells marijuana to people over 18. I sat and observed the very local, almost quaint scene: Neighbors were chatting. An older couple (who apparently didn't enjoy the trendy ambience) parked their bikes and dropped in for a baggie to go. An underage customer was shooed away. Then a police officer showed up -- but only to post a warning about the latest danger from chemical drugs on the streets.

Some concerned U.S. parents are comforted by the illusion of control created by our complete prohibition of marijuana. But the policy seems to be backfiring: Their kids say it's easier to buy marijuana than tobacco or alcohol. (You don't get carded when you buy something illegally.) Meanwhile, Dutch parents say their approach not only protects their younger children, but also helps insulate teens over 18 from street pushers trying to get them hooked on more addictive (and profitable) hard drugs.

After a decade of regulating marijuana, Dutch anti-drug abuse professionals agree there has been no significant increase in pot smoking among young people, and that overall cannabis use has increased only slightly. European and U.S. government statistics show per-capita consumption of marijuana for most of Europe (including the Netherlands) is about half that of the U.S., despite the criminal consequences facing American pot smokers.

When it comes to marijuana, European leaders understand that a society must choose: Tolerate alternative lifestyles or build more prisons. They've made their choice. We're still building more prisons.

According to Forbes magazine, 25 million Americans currently use marijuana (federal statistics indicate that one in three Americans has used marijuana at some point), which makes it a $113 billion untaxed industry in our country. The FBI reports that about 40 percent of the roughly 1.8 million annual drug arrests in the U.S. are for marijuana -- the majority (89 percent) for simple possession.

Rather than act as a deterrent, criminalization of marijuana drains precious resources, clogs our legal system and distracts law enforcement attention from more pressing safety concerns.

But things are changing. For example, in Seattle, Initiative 75, which makes adult marijuana use the lowest law enforcement priority for local cops, was recently reviewed after four years in action. The results clearly show that during that period, marijuana use didn't measurably increase, and street crime associated with drugs actually went down.

More and more U.S. parents, lawyers, police, judges and even travel writers feel it's time for a change. Obviously, like Europeans, we don't want anyone to harm themselves or others by misusing marijuana. We simply believe that regulating and taxing what many consider a harmless vice is smarter than outlawing it.

Like my European friends, I believe we can adopt a pragmatic policy toward marijuana, with a focus on harm reduction and public health, rather than tough-talking but counterproductive criminalization. The time has come to have an honest discussion about our marijuana laws and their effectiveness. We need to find a policy that is neither "hard on drugs" nor "soft on drugs" -- but smart on drugs.

Rick Steves is a travel writer based in Edmonds.

Original Article

Compassion In Action

Help seriously ill people in Alabama get access to medical marijuana by asking legislators to hold hearings on the Compassionate Care Act:

Drug Policy Alliance: Support Compassionate Care In Alabama

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Alabama Physician Speaks Out For Medical Marijuana

Michael Phillips, far right, with a group of drug policy reform advocates from Alabama, including Loretta Nall, center.

The Birmingham News
March 23, 2008

I didn't know Michael Phillips, but I've had patients like him. Born with an inoperable brain tumor, he was prone to seizures. There were always doubts he'd live to see the next day. From the start, he never had much of a chance.

Some patients like that turn bitter. They give up hope. Others just make do, much like the rest of us. They go with what they've got, and they don't look back.

Then a few are like the young man everyone called Michael.

He took joy in life. Michael gave it, too. From his earliest days, he loved music. Whether it was singing in church or listening to his favorite bands, he savored a melody and he went with the beat. He liked songs that rocked.

Friends tell how Michael took his pastor's words to heart and went home and trashed his rock'n' roll CDs after he joined the church. He held on to the ones by Kiss, though. To Michael's way of thinking, they couldn't be all bad if they rocked like that.

He wanted to take a bigger part in his community, but his precarious condition held him back. The seizures didn't help, either. Call them grand mal or major-motor: By whatever tag, they hit him like a mugging and left him in a heap.

In spite of all the different medicines he took for them, the seizures still came so often that he had to fight just to keep on his feet at the brink of life.

Maybe that's why some of his friends saw Michael as being not quite of this world. Or maybe it had to do with his namesake, the chief of angels. Anyway, those who knew him couldn't help feeling this young man walked on higher ground than most.

Finally, Michael caught a break. He came across a means to make his seizures much less frequent. It wasn't medicine, exactly, and it came with more than a little baggage. Just using it got Michael arrested, twice, even with prescriptions from doctors.

Still, he saw the promise in it, and not just for himself. Michael heard about patients with painful eye conditions who got better with it. There were people with cancer who couldn't take chemo without just about heaving their guts up, too, but now they could get their treatment and didn't turn sick.

Michael also listened to stories of folks at the end of their lives and how they'd come by some ease from what had helped him.

So, he set out to get the same aid for others he'd found for himself. That's what took him down to New Orleans. Michael was out to do good, for sure. But this time he got to have a good time while he was at it.

Some say it's hard to find the beat in blues, but Michael nailed it straight off. He took a stroll down Bourbon Street, and the notes that lilted from the doors he passed caught up with him. Soon he was tapping his feet and bobbing his head.

A December breeze hustled in off the river and made the day as crisp as it ever gets in the Quarter. The sun came out, and the sky was like glass. Michael tried raw oysters for the first time in his life, and they were good.

The young man who had never strayed far from Millbrook, Ala., looked around with all his eyes. Then he cracked a big smile. He saw the face of a city that could take a punch and roll with it, with style. In a way, it felt like home.

Then he got down to business. Shy as he was, Michael pitched into the meeting he'd come for. Networking, asking questions, patching up alliances and charting common ground, he was all about working for the goal they shared here. Anyone could see the momentum pick up around him.

Early the next morning, Michael's old and new friends went to look for him. They rang his room at the hotel, but there was no answer. There never would be. At last, the angel had flown.

If you go to the Web site for Alabamians for Compassionate Care, the group Michael worked with, you'll see a caduceus, the medical staff, outlined against a suspicious-looking leaf. That's cannabis, all right. Weed, pot, marijuana - call it what you will. It's what helped Michael. It could help other patients, too.

ACC is pushing a bill (HB679) to make marijuana legal for medical use in Alabama, and it's in a legislative committee. On behalf of the patients who need it and the ones who want help for them, I urge readers to check it out. Look at the pros and cons. Weigh the issues. Make up your mind. Then tell your state senator and representative.

That's how we do things in Alabama. That's how we can change the rules. That's how we can lend a hand to those in need, even if we've never seen their faces and don't know their names.

That, I can just about hear Michael say, rocks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steven Rudd is a physician and writer who lives in Birmingham. His latest novel, "Blues for Susannah," is now available in paperback at E-mail:

Original Article

Loretta Nall: Tragedy Strikes - The Death Of A Friend

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Travel Pro Steves To Challenge Futile U.S. Drug War

Rick Steves

Travel pro Steves to challenge futile U.S. drug war

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

AS HE TROOPS about Europe, with notebook and camera crew, guidebook author Rick Steves witnesses what the late historian Barbara Tuchman called "The March of Folly," the sites of wars and witch hunts waged by feckless rulers.

Steves has come home with a mind to take on our leaders’ folly, the federal government’s enduring, woefully unsuccessful War on Drugs, and the battle front against marijuana.

He would replace a strategy of locking people up with a policy designed to lessen harm. It’s a lot like the "Four Pillars" approach to drug use adopted by Vancouver, B.C.: treatment, harm reduction, prevention and -- for profiteers of the business -- enforcement.

"I’m just tired of watching people embrace lies because they think it is dangerous to do otherwise," Steves explained.

The futility of the drug war, started by the Nixon administration, can be seen in sweeping statistics as well as individual cases of human hurt.

The Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that 97.8 million Americans, age 12 and older, have used marijuana at least once. The ranks of semi-regular smokers total more than 25 million.

If 39.8 percent of those over 12 have taken a toke, the number of young people getting high is higher. The DEA says that totals 41.8 percent of 12th-graders -- 31.7 percent have smoked in the past year -- 46.9 percent of college students and 56.7 percent of young adults.

Can our drug warriors claim success given these figures?

Steves says officials abroad shake their head at the ham-handed tactics of America’s drug bureaucracy. "Europe has had a 15-year track record dealing with drugs as a health problem, not a crime problem," he said.

Or drive 144 miles north and talk with Canadian Sen. Larry Campbell, a former police officer, coroner and Vancouver mayor. "They’re still in ’Reefer Madness,’ " Campbell said in an interview, referring to a laughable anti-drug movie of the 1930s.

The drug warriors’ tactics, of late, have been to attack civil liberties and stomp on privacy.

An example is requiring random drug tests for those involved in high school athletics. In a case from tiny Wahkiakum County, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week against the school district’s policy of pee-to-participate.

Bill Clinton quibbled, waffled and evaded the have-you-ever-smoked-pot question far into the 1992 campaign. He finally put the country in stitches with his "I didn’t inhale" line.

But our first baby-boomer president signed a punitive law passed in 1995 by the Republican-controlled Congress. The law denies federal student loan assistance to convicted marijuana "offenders."

What’s the effect? In 2006, 696,074 Americans were arrested for marijuana "offenses." Of this number, 88 percent were charged only with possession. The number charged with sale and/or manufacture totaled just over 90,000.

Hence, thousands of college students have been denied aid, and thousands of other worthy citizens endure petty penalties.

A friend of mine works summers for the National Park Service, and wants to make a career with the agency. He is a) an Eagle Scout, b) an Olympic Peninsula native, c) a trained climbing guide and rescue technician who d) has earned two master’s degrees, and e) presents research at scholarly gatherings on how to minimize human effects on fragile natural systems.

One step remains: He must take a law enforcement course. Because he took a toke on a joint two years ago -- and answered the question honestly -- the guy must wait an additional year to learn how to shoot straight.

The have-you-ever question has not intruded into the 2008 presidential campaign. A Hillary Clinton enforcer tried to gin up attention into Barack Obama’s confession of youthful marijuana use, but was forced to leave the campaign.

Still, as Hendrik Hertzberg wrote recently in The New Yorker, neither Obama, Clinton nor John McCain seems willing to rescue the country "from the larger disgrace of the drug war -- the billions wasted, the millions harmed, the utter futility of it."

As usual, the initiative must come from the bottom up. As with global warming, Seattle is a test market for change.

It’s appropriate. In 2003, Seattle voters adopted Initiative 75, making pot possession our city’s lowest law enforcement priority. Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske cites, with a hint of pride, the low number of stand-alone marijuana smoking arrests.

The American Civil Liberties Union has put together a multimedia public education campaign, "Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation," which includes a Web site (, a booklet and a 30-minute video. Steves is host.

Comcast is offering the video free to subscribers through its On Demand service. Comcast subscribers can watch the program by entering 888 on their cable remote, going to Community, and looking for the program.

It’s a modest beginning. Steves jokes about hosting because a politician would run the risk of being "Swift-boated."

One hopes, however, that the ACLU will get bolder.

The marijuana front consumes $8 billion in taxpayer dollars each year. To what end? What does society gain from all those possession arrests?

Sensible Americans look out today and see a country that needs to be extracted from its failing wars.

P-I columnist Joel Connelly can be reached at 206-448-8160 or Follow politics on the P-I’s blog at

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years In Iraq: Bush Lied, They Died

Here's our group of North Kitsap Neighbors for Peace which gathered at the Kingston Ferry Terminal to mark five years of war in Iraq. Thanks to Mary and Marilyn for making this happen. I'm the goofy one up front with the hoodie. Many thanks to Rebecca Pirtle of the Kingston Community News for the great photo! (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Bush's war in Iraq reaches its five-year mark today, with 4,000 American dead, and untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children sacrificed... but relax! Dubya assures us it's all "worth it."

Well, if your son or daughter comes home in a box, at least you'll have plenty of $4 gas to go to their funeral.

Leading a nation to war under false pretenses is an act of treason. And it is a despicably venal act when it is done for reasons of political gain and corporate profit.

Reality Catcher: Bush Lied, They Died

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Let's Talk About Marijuana

By Kathleen Taylor
Special to The Seattle Times
March 18, 2008

A college student loses his financial aid because of a youthful indiscretion. A woman coping with the ravages of ovarian cancer lives in fear of being arrested for using what best eases her suffering. Across town, a front door bursts open and police rush in to handcuff a man relaxing in his living room.

These events have one thing in common: marijuana. Whether it is being kicked out of college for a youthful mistake, being denied relief from pain as a cancer patient, or getting arrested for personal use in one's home, marijuana laws have far-reaching consequences.

And these consequences are often totally disproportionate to whatever societal risk or danger marijuana use may pose.

So, can we talk?

I think we should. As a nation, we spend at least $7.5 billion annually enforcing our marijuana laws. In 2006, the latest year for which we have numbers, a record 830,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana — 89 percent of them simply for possessing it.

Our criminal-justice system wastes time and resources with these low-level marijuana-possession cases while half our violent crimes go unsolved. And those facing the judge are disproportionately African American and Latino.

A recent report to the Seattle City Council on Initiative 75 — which made the adult personal use of marijuana the city's lowest law-enforcement priority — showed people of color are still far more likely to be arrested than whites, despite similar rates of marijuana use.

Unjust and uneven enforcement is just one of the ramifications of treating marijuana use as a criminal matter. Noted physician and pharmacologist John Morgan has said, "The most dangerous thing about marijuana is to be arrested for its possession or use."

Indeed, the consequences of an arrest for even a small amount of marijuana can haunt someone for the rest of his or her life. We have met and heard from people who lost or were denied jobs, had their homes raided and their property seized, lost child-visitation rights, and had their medical marijuana confiscated.

Ironically, we've been down this path before. Prohibition didn't stop people from drinking. Instead, it created gang warfare between bootleggers over the profits to be made. Sound familiar?

We realized Prohibition was creating a lot of new problems and solving few, if any, of the old ones. States now control alcohol sales and consumption. And our tax dollars are more effectively directed at regulation, public education and treatment for those whose use becomes problematic.

As parents, we want to shield our children from harm and reserve certain choices for when they are old enough to understand the risks and repercussions. Certainly, this is as true of marijuana as it is of alcohol and tobacco. But just as certainly, and as most teenagers will tell you, it is easier for them to buy marijuana than beer or cigarettes. Our marijuana laws don't work. I know it. You know it. Scores of our neighbors know it.

But no one is talking. Most of us have our own ideas about what should be done, but this has to be a decision that we make as a community. Too much is riding on this issue not to have an honest, candid discussion. Please join us in the conversation.

Kathleen Taylor is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

Rick Steves

THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION of Washington is launching a multimedia public-education campaign on the country's marijuana laws and their impact on taxpayers, communities and those arrested. As part of that effort, "Marijuana: It's Time for a Conversation," hosted by travel writer Rick Steves, airs this month on local stations and is available free to Comcast On Demand subscribers in Western Washington. For more information:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mary Ann of Gilligan's Island Caught With Marijuana; She Was Gilligan's Dealer

With the February 29 conviction of Dawn Wells, Mary Ann of Gilligan's Island, we know what at least two of the folks on the Island were growing.

Bob Denver, Gilligan himself, was arrested in 1998 after he signed for a FedEx delivery of 30 grams of marijuana. Police spent more than two hours tearing up his house, and reportedly confiscated two marijuana pipes and several more grams of pot.

As if that's not enough, it turns out that Mary Ann was Gilligan's dealer.

God, I love this universe.

Reports at the time suggested that Denver's Gilligan co-star Wells had arranged the shipment, that his checkbook included several suspicious payments to Wells, and that prosecutors were pressuring him to name Wells as his supplier. Instead, true friend Denver testified that "some crazy fan must have sent it." His punishment was six months probation.

Denver died in 2005 at age 70.

This undated photo, supplied by the Teton County Sheriff's Department, shows Dawn Wells, the actress who played "Mary Ann" on Gilligan's Island, who was sentenced Feb. 29, 2008, to five days in jail, fined $410.50 and placed on probation in Idaho after pleading guilty to one count of reckless driving. The guilty plea came as part of an agreement with prosecutors in which three misdemeanor counts -- driving under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance stemming from an Oct. 18, traffic stop -- were dropped. (AP Photo/Teton County Sheriff's Department)

'Gilligan's' Mary Ann Caught With Dope

Published: 3/11/08, 4:25 PM EDT

DRIGGS, Idaho (AP) - Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island," is serving six months' unsupervised probation after allegedly being caught with marijuana in her car.

She was sentenced Feb. 29 to five days in jail, fined $410.50 and placed on probation after pleading guilty to one count of reckless driving.

Under a plea agreement, three misdemeanor counts - driving under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance - were dropped.

On Oct. 18, Teton County sheriff's Deputy Joseph Gutierrez arrested Wells as she was driving home from a surprise birthday party that was held for her.

According to the sheriff's office report, Gutierrez pulled Wells over after noticing her swerve and repeatedly speed up and slow down. When Gutierrez asked about a marijuana smell, Wells said she'd just given a ride to three hitchhikers and had dropped them off when they began smoking something. Gutierrez found half-smoked joints and two small cases used to store marijuana.

The 69-year-old Wells, founder of the Idaho Film and Television Institute and organizer of the region's annual family movie festival called the Spud Fest, then failed a sobriety test.

Wells' lawyer, Ron Swafford, said that a friend of Wells' testified that he'd left a small amount of marijuana in the vehicle after using it that day, and that Wells was unaware of it. Swafford also said several witnesses were prepared to testify that Wells had very little to drink at the party and was not intoxicated when she left. He said she was swerving on the road because she was trying to find the heater controls in her new car.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bush To Veto Bill Banning Waterboarding

"President Bush's veto will be one of the most shameful acts of his presidency." ~ Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Mar 7, 7:18 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says President Bush will veto legislation on Saturday that would have barred the CIA from using waterboarding - a technique that simulates drowning - and other harsh interrogation methods on terror suspects.

Bush has said the bill would harm the government's ability to prevent future attacks. Supporters of the legislation argue that it preserves the United States' right to collect critical intelligence while boosting the country's moral standing abroad.

"The bill would take away one of the most valuable tools on the war on terror, the CIA program to detain and question key terrorist leaders and operatives," deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto said Friday.

The bill would restrict the CIA to using only the 19 interrogation techniques listed in the Army field manual.

The legislation would bar the CIA from using waterboarding, sensory deprivation or other coercive methods to break a prisoner who refuses to answer questions. Those practices were banned by the military in 2006, but the president wants the harsh interrogation methods to be a part of the CIA's toolbox.

Backers of the legislation, which cleared the House in December and won Senate approval last month, say the interrogation methods used by the military are sufficient.

"President Bush's veto will be one of the most shameful acts of his presidency," Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said in a statement Friday. "Unless Congress overrides the veto, it will go down in history as a flagrant insult to the rule of law and a serious stain on the good name of America in the eyes of the world."

He noted that the Army field manual contends that harsh interrogation is a "poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the (interrogator) wants to hear."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would work to override Bush's veto next week. "In the final analysis, our ability to lead the world will depend not only on our military might, but on our moral authority," said Pelosi, D-Calif.

But based on the margin of passage in each chamber, it would be difficult for the Democratic-controlled Congress to turn back the veto. It takes a two-thirds majority, and the House vote was 222-199 and the Senate's was 51-45.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush often warns against ignoring the advice of U.S. commanders on the ground in Iraq. Yet the president has rejected the Army Field Manual, which recognizes that harsh interrogation tactics elicit unreliable information, said Reid, D-Nev.

"Democrats will continue working to reverse the damage President Bush has caused to our standing in the world," Reid said.

Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, said Bush "will go down in history as the torture president" for defying Congress and allowing the CIA to use interrogation techniques "that any reasonable observer would call torture."

"The Bush administration continues to insist that CIA and other nonmilitary interrogators are not bound by the military rules and has reportedly given CIA interrogators the green light to use a range of so-called 'enhanced' interrogation techniques, including prolonged sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, and exposure to extreme cold," Daskal said. "Although waterboarding is not currently approved for use by the CIA, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has refused to take it off the table for the future."

Mar 8, 10:03 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats and human rights advocates criticized President Bush's veto Saturday of a bill that would have banned the CIA from using simulated drowning and other coercive interrogation methods to gain information from suspected terrorists.

Bush said such tactics have helped foil terrorist plots. His critics likened some methods to torture and said they sullied America's reputation around the world.

"This president had the chance to end the torture debate for good, yet he chose instead to leave the door open to use torture in the future," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

She said Bush ignored the advice of 43 retired generals and admirals and 18 national security experts, including former secretaries of state and national security advisers, who supported the bill.

"Torture is a black mark against the United States," she said.

Waterboarding involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. It has been traced back hundreds of years to the Spanish Inquisition and is condemned by nations around the world and human rights organizations as torture.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he had heard nothing to suggest that the CIA, through enhanced interrogation methods, had obtained information to thwart a terrorist attack. "On the other hand, I do know that coercive interrogations can lead detainees to provide false information in order to make the interrogation stop," said Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

There also are concerns that the use of waterboarding would undermine U.S. human rights efforts overseas and could place Americans at greater risk of being tortured if they are captured abroad.

"The president's refusal to sign this crucial legislation into law will undermine counterterrorism efforts globally and delay efforts to rebuild U.S. credibility on human rights," said Elisa Massimino, Washington director for Human Rights First.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A Personal Note From Governor Siegelman

I got the following letter today, handwritten by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman from his federal prison cell in Louisiana.

Maybe you've heard about the trumped up Bush regime charges leveled against Democratic former Gov. Siegelman for some time. 60 Minutes on February 24 aired an exposé on the combination of Washington-based and Alabama-based political operatives and corrupt federal judges and prosecutors who brought charges against Siegelman and jailed him for over 7 years in a blatant political prosecution unprecedented in recent American history.

Fifty-two former state attorneys general have asked Congress to investigate whether the prosecution of Governor Siegelman was pursued, not because of a crime, but because of politics (he was the most successful Democrat in Alabama).

Governor Siegelman is incarcerated in the Oakdale Federal Prison Camp in Louisiana. He is the highest ranking American political prisoner to date.

Let us wish him the best and an earliest possible release from his confinement that was engineered by a GOP cabal that includes Alabama Governor Bob Riley, federal judge Mark Fuller, Bush lapdog Karl Rove, and others.

It says a lot about the man that, in his reply to my letter of moral support, he didn’t concentrate on his own case but, rather, focused on the larger issue of what is being done to the Republic by those who would put their personal and political vendettas above the rule of law.

Governor Siegelman's mailing address is:

Governor Don Siegelman
FPC PO Box 5010
Oakdale, LA 71463

You may send letters and cards, as well as copies of articles but no books or packages.

U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey is delaying action on the Siegelman case and Gov. Riley, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and Alabama Attorney General Troy King have pressured the media, including CBS, not to pursue the Siegelman case.

During the airing of "The Prosecution of Governor Siegelman" on 60 Minutes, CBS affiliate WHNT in Huntsville, Alabama, which covers much of the northern half of the Heart of Dixie, had a mysterious "blackout" which lasted for almost the entire Siegelman segment and then -- you guessed it! -- "corrected itself" once the exposé had finished. WHNT is owned by an investment firm called Oak Hill Capital, which is led by Robert Bass, who belongs to an influential Alabama family with long ties to Republicans.

Please contact your congressional representatives and demand that they bring pressure on the Bush administration to release Siegelman during his appeal. (Good luck if they are Republicans!)

Steve Elliott



Thank you!

My dear friend, thank you for your uplifting words!

Karl Rove (and others) responsible for perverting our country's sense of right and wrong must be held accountable.

The U.S. House must hold Rove in contempt, then go to court to enforce the citation.

Congress must seek the truth -- Rove's documents, emails and phone records will prove his abuse of power and misuse of the DOJ [Department of Justice] for political purposes.

Please write Congress to encourage them to take the next important steps to the truth.

Hope you had a chance to see "60 Minutes"! Go to:

to see "The Prosecution of Governor Siegelman" as aired on CBS '60 Minutes' 2.24.08.


(Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman)

60 Minutes: The Prosecution of Don Siegelman (Part 1 of 2)

60 Minutes: The Prosecution of Don Siegelman (Part 2 of 2)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Happy 64th Birthday to Roger Daltrey of The Who

Roger Daltrey, voice of The Who, is 64 today.

Roger Daltrey bio