Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Medical Marijuana Won't Kill You, But Misguided Policies Will

Tim Garon and his guitar

The national outrage continues at the treatment of Tim Garon, who was denied a liver transplant largely because, at the advice of his physician, he used medical marijuana, which is legal in the state of Washington.

The uproar has sent the University of Washington Medical Center into full damage-control mode. They are now desperately backpedaling away from their earlier admission that Garon was, in fact, denied the transplant because of medical marijuana.

UW officials now vaguely cite "other factors," but it's too late: Two separate physicians, including transplant chief Dr. Jorge Reyes, already admitted in an Associated Press story that marijuana was the reason.

In that story, Dr. Reyes said Garon was denied the transplant because he, Dr. Reyes, feared that Garon wouldn't be able to stop smoking marijuana after the operation. And another UW doctor claimed that marijuana commonly contains mold that could cause organ rejection in a transplant patient. Both of these, bereft as they are of logic, are tacit admissions that marijuana was, in fact, the reason Tim Garon was rejected as a transplant recipient.

Meanwhile, the spin control continues, with UW communications specialist Mary Guiden today emailing me, "Although medical marijuana may be an issue in rare cases, it is never the sole determinant in arriving at medical decisions about candidates for organ transplants, and whether a patient is listed."

Guiden went on to tell me "the Liver Transplant Committee looks at a number of other issues, including behavioral concerns such as a history of substance abuse or dependency. If such a history exists, then the Committee looks at the period of abstinence the candidate has demonstrated to date, efforts made to maintain this abstinence, and the potential to abuse again."

Seems we're back to Mary Jane again, Mary. You are attempting to frame the debate in terms of "substance abuse or dependency," when we are talking about doctor-recommended use of legal medical marijuana. You are attempting to impose the model of "abstinence, and the potential to abuse again"; that's trying to impose an addiction scenario on doctor-recommended medical usage of legal medicine. That is intellectually dishonest, and morally bankrupt: You are making it sound as if Tim Garon had been sucking down gallons of whiskey or scarfing down lines of coke. Tim wasn't abusing anything. He didn't need to "abstain" from anything. He was using medical marijuana.

Folks, what we have here is a moral judgment masquerading as a medical decision.

Tim Garon did nothing wrong; medical marijuana is legal in the state of Washington, and is less toxic to the liver than anything else he could have taken to lesson his nausea and pain. As Harvard psychologist and marijuana researcher Dr. Lester Grinspoon has written on his website, "Cannabis is not hepatotoxic. You can use cannabis to treat the symptoms of hepatitis C without affecting its course. Many people who have this problem use cannabis to get symptomatic relief."

The national wave of disgust at the inhumane transplant policies of hospitals including the UW Medical Center is still growing, and continues to be expressed even in the mainstream press. The Ventura County Star in California published an excellent editorial on the topic today:

Editorial: Pot costs man shot at a liver
Is death the price of inaction?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

By the time state governments have resolved their differences over medical marijuana with the federal government, Timothy Garon will be dead, if he isn't already.

Mr. Garon, lead singer for Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover-band in Seattle, was reported Sunday by The Associated Press to be dying from Hepatitis C, which has destroyed his liver. He needs a new one.

He would be on an organ transplant list to have at least a crack at a new liver, if it weren't for one thing: He used medical marijuana, under the authorization of a Seattle physician, as allowed by Washington state law. Dr. Brad Roter recommended the marijuana for Mr. Garon's nausea, abdominal pain and to increase his appetite.

Little did they know that at several U.S. hospitals, people who use illegal substances — even medical marijuana where it is legal — are not eligible for a transplant. The University of Washington Medical Center has strict rules about transplant candidates' drug use, but reconsidered Mr. Garon's case when his attorney pressed the issue. Still, the university denied Mr. Garon a shot at a new liver. AP reported that UCLA Medical Center allows patients a chance to reapply for a transplant list if they stay off marijuana for six months.

The Star understands that with a shortage of organs for transplant, available organs should go to those most likely to take care of them. That is why patients who drink heavily or use illegal drugs are often excluded from transplant lists. However, it is inconceivable that a sick person a doctor has deemed a candidate for medical marijuana is lumped in the same category as a drug abuser.

It is inconceivable that in 2008, marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it is deemed to have no medical use in the U.S.

That is despite a 1999 yearlong study by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science, which concluded marijuana may be effective in easing chronic pain, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, poor appetite, wasting caused by AIDS or advanced cancer, and muscular spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

That is despite the fact that California and 11 other states have passed laws allowing medical marijuana to be recommended by doctors.

And that is despite the fact that, just this year, the American College of Physicians — 124,000 doctors of internal medicine — formally called on the federal government to ease its ban on medical marijuana.

The U.S. government has gone to such ridiculous lengths to prohibit medical marijuana that, from 1997 to 2003, it threatened to revoke doctors' federal licenses to prescribe medicine if they even discussed the benefit of medical marijuana with their patients.

Californians and residents of 11 other states that allow medical marijuana are victims of the clash of state and federal laws that has been unresolved for too long. The U.S. Supreme Court recommended in 2005 that Congress resolve the issue.

But, earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers can fire workers who use marijuana recommended by a physician.

And, today, Mr. Garon, if he isn't dead already, doesn't have a prayer.

So, be warned, medical marijuana — legal for the last 12 years in California with a doctor's authorization — could cost you your job. And if you need an organ transplant, it could cost you your life.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fax, Email, Call: Don't Deny Transplants To Medical Marijuana Patients!

Tim Garon and his girlfriend, Leisa Bueno, who leans over to give him a kiss while they wait to hear if he will be put on a transplant list to receive a new liver on Thursday in Seattle. Garon was refused a spot, largely because he has used marijuana, even though it was legally approved for medical reasons. (AP Photo)

I can't stop thinking about Tim Garon, who was removed from the list to receive a liver transplant due to his legal, physician-recommended use of medical marijuana.

Four days ago, Tim, a talented musician (you can get his music on and by all accounts a great guy, was told he wouldn't be receiving a liver due to his "illicit drug use."

This is unconscionable and inhumane. Beyond that, it's simply barbaric.

I've listened to Tim's song, "Goodbye Baby," dozens of times over the past two days and I don't mind telling you that there have been a few tears.

It's hard to believe this kind of thing is still happening, even in states where voters have legalized medical marijuana when recommended by a physician.

The Liver Selection Committee that made this decision knows full well that the medical marijuana Tim Garon smoked hasn't caused liver damage. Instead, Dr. Jorge Reyes justifies the decision in an AP article by saying marijuana can be habit-forming, and he's worried that Garon would continue to use marijuana.

As Dominic Holden wrote today in the Slog, "Excuse me, but what sort of backward logic concludes it's best to let a man to die because he used the very medication that helped him live?" Hepatitis C is explicitly covered under Washington's Medical Use of Marijuana Act for helping control the nausea caused by the disease's viral load.

In the article, another doctor grasps at straws by claiming that a form of mold that can be found on marijuana could cause his body to reject the new liver, if Garon continues to smoke pot — but (a) Tim wouldn't keep smoking pot if doctors told him not to, because he's smoking it on his personal physician's advice, and is not addicted to it like a crack addict (marijuana is one of the least habit-forming drugs), (b) Tim is not suicidal, he very much wants to live; and (c) almost all medical grade marijuana is properly cured so as not to contain any mold!

So, according to the doctor, Tim is being denied the transplant for something that hasn't happened. (Of course, we know that in reality the transplant committee is making an ENORMOUS moral judgment on Tim Garon for smoking pot -- and they're willing to let him die because of that.)

The back story, for those not already familiar with Tim Garon's plight:

This Amounts To A Death Sentence For Using Legal Medical Marijuana

This isn't the first time this has happened -- but we need to do all we can to make sure that it's the last:

I just spoke with a very nice and helpful person at the UW Medical Center who has given me a fax number:

Liver Selection Committee
Fax 206-598-0628

If we could all send reasonable, respectful and short messages to this fax number explaining that we disagree with legal, physician recommended medical marijuana use being used as a basis for disqualifying patients from the list to receive livers, we very well might make some positive impact on the way they think about and handle this.

I'm going to send a message like this:

"I realize that the types of decisions you have to make regarding transplants are very difficult. But at the same time, I’d like to register my sincere opinion that denying a patient a liver transplant on the basis of his or her use of legal medical marijuana as recommended by a physician is not a good decision, not a logical one, nor is it a humane one."

I strongly encourage all of you who have access to a fax machine to send a message of your own.

For those without reasonable fax access, here are some phone numbers, but be aware that last time I tried, voicemail boxes tended to be full, preventing messages from being left. If by some chance you do get through, please be respectful but firm.

UW Medical Center Division of Transplant Main Number
(206) 598-6700

UW Medical Center Transplant Services
Jorge​ D. Reyes​,​ division chief,​ 206-​543-​9738

Kay Wicks, director,

Liver Transplant Division
Mary Kester, clinical coordinator, 206-598-4838
Theresa Hernandez, program coordinator, 206-598-4902
JoAnn Williams, patient care coordinator, 206-598-0017

Thanks for caring and blessed be...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

This Amounts To A Death Sentence For Using Legal Medical Marijuana

Tim Garon lies in his hospital bed, Thursday, April 17, 2008, in Seattle. Garon was refused a spot on the transplant list for a new liver, largely because he has used marijuana, even though it was legally approved for medical reasons. (AP Photo)

In Medical Marijuana States, A Patient's Authorized Pot Use Could Block Access To Transplants

By Gene Johnson
The Associated Press

SEATTLE, April 26, 2008

(AP) Timothy Garon's face and arms are hauntingly skeletal, but the fluid building up in his abdomen makes the 56-year-old musician look eight months pregnant.

His liver, ravaged by hepatitis C, is failing. Without a new one, his doctors tell him, he will be dead in days.

But Garon's been refused a spot on the transplant list, largely because he has used marijuana, even though it was legally approved for medical reasons.

"I'm not angry, I'm not mad, I'm just confused," said Garon, lying in his hospital bed a few minutes after a doctor told him the hospital transplant committee's decision Thursday.

With the scarcity of donated organs, transplant committees like the one at the University of Washington Medical Center use tough standards, including whether the candidate has other serious health problems or is likely to drink or do drugs.

And with cases like Garon's, they also have to consider -- as a dozen states now have medical marijuana laws -- if using dope with a doctor's blessing should be held against a dying patient in need of a transplant.

Most transplant centers struggle with the how to deal with people who have used marijuana, said Dr. Robert Sade, director of the Institute of Human Values in Health Care at the Medical University of South Carolina.

"Marijuana, unlike alcohol, has no direct effect on the liver. It is however a concern ... in that it's a potential indicator of an addictive personality," Sade said.

The Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation's transplant system, leaves it to individual hospitals to develop criteria for transplant candidates.

At some, people who use "illicit substances" -- including medical marijuana, even in states that allow it -- are automatically rejected. At others, such as the UCLA Medical Center, patients are given a chance to reapply if they stay clean for six months. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Garon believes he got hepatitis by sharing needles with "speed freaks" as a teenager. In recent years, he said, pot has been the only drug he's used. In December, he was arrested for growing marijuana.

Garon, who has been hospitalized or in hospice care for two months straight, said he turned to the university hospital after Seattle's Harborview Medical Center told him he needed six months of abstinence.

The university also denied him, but said it would reconsider if he enrolled in a 60-day drug-treatment program. This week, at the urging of Garon's lawyer, the university's transplant team reconsidered anyway, but it stuck to its decision.

Dr. Brad Roter, the Seattle physician who authorized Garon's pot use for nausea, abdominal pain and to stimulate his appetite, said he did not know it would be such a hurdle if Garon were to need a transplant.

That's typically the case, said Peggy Stewart, a clinical social worker on the liver transplant team at UCLA who has researched the issue. "There needs to be some kind of national eligibility criteria," she said.

The patients "are trusting their physician to do the right thing. The physician prescribes marijuana, they take the marijuana, and they are shocked that this is now the end result," she said.

No one tracks how many patients are denied transplants over medical marijuana use.

Pro-marijuana groups have cited a handful of cases, including at least two patient deaths, in Oregon and California, since the mid-to-late 1990s, when states began adopting medical marijuana laws.

Many doctors agree that using marijuana -- smoking it, especially -- is out of the question post-transplant.

The drugs patients take to help their bodies accept a new organ increase the risk of aspergillosis, a frequently fatal infection caused by a common mold found in marijuana and tobacco.

But there's little information on whether using marijuana is a problem before the transplant, said Dr. Emily Blumberg, an infectious disease specialist who works with transplant patients at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

Further complicating matters, Blumberg said, is that some insurers require proof of abstinence, such as drug tests, before they'll agree to pay for transplants.

Dr. Jorge Reyes, a liver transplant surgeon at the UW Medical Center, said that while medical marijuana use isn't in itself a sign of substance abuse, it must be evaluated in the context of each patient.

"The concern is that patients who have been using it will not be able to stop," Reyes said.

Dale Gieringer, state coordinator for the California chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, scoffed at that notion.

"Everyone agrees that marijuana is the least habit-forming of all the recreational drugs, including alcohol," Gieringer said. "And unlike a lot of prescription medications, it's nontoxic to the liver."

Reyes and other UW officials declined to discuss Garon's case.

But Reyes said that in addition to medical concerns, transplant committees -- which often include surgeons, social workers, and nutritionists -- must evaluate whether patients have the support and psychiatric health to cope with a complex post-operative regimen for the rest of their lives.

Garon, the lead singer for Nearly Dan, a Steely Dan cover-band, remains charged with manufacturing weed. He insists he was following the state law, which limits patients to a "60-day supply" but doesn't define that amount.

"He's just a fantastic musician, and he's a great guy," said his girlfriend, Liesa Bueno. "I wish there was something we could do legally. ... I'm going to miss him terribly if he passes."


Garon performing his song "Goodbye Baby":

Apparently, I'm A Freak For Speaking Out Against Rob McKenna And For Medical Marijuana Patients

A Republican zealot and Rob McKenna apologist I'll call "Kitsap Bob" has circulated some inanities attempting to repair the irreparable damage Attorney General McKenna has done to himself by prosecuting medical marijuana patients.

Since knight in whining armor "Bob" chose to circulate this nonsense in a public forum rather than send a private email, here are my very public answers. :-)

"Kitsap Bob":
You cite RCW's defining Rob McKenna's duties then you leap into fantasy when you offer up conjecture about "...right-wing marching orders from the Bush administration..." Wow!

That's not a fantasy: That's an observation of empirical facts, based on his actions.

Washington state law defines the enforcement duties of Washington's attorney general. Washington state law recognizes legal medical marijuana.

The Bush administration, on the other hand, recognizes no medical uses for marijuana. The ONDCP (and of course, the DEA) say that the very concept of "medical marijuana" is bogus.

Which side of that divide do YOU think Rob McKenna is on?

And lest you doubt that Rob McKenna is kissing up to the Republican establishment, that very same Mr. McKenna is -- you guessed it -- state chairman of outspoken medical marijuana opponent John McCain's presidential campaign!

"Kitsap Bob":
In past communications you admitted you've not been politically active other than observing a relative down south. This article confirms those statements and shows your ignorance of the process and quite frankly doesn't do the mmj cause any good.

I've "admitted" no such thing. If anything, I've said that once I perceived the situation on the ground here in Washington, it's made me MORE politically active, as witness my blog.

Whether it's in Alabama or Washington, when I see law enforcement officials refusing to respect the law, that pisses me off. And I won't be silenced from calling them on it.

For my entire life, I've done a LOT more than "observe a relative down south." When I lived in Alabama, I was an active participant in the campaigns of numerous liberals for local, statewide, and national office.

You talk about my "ignorance of the process." Well, if "the process" you're talking about is the disconnect between Washington's medical marijuana law and Rob McKenna's demonstrated distaste for and hostility to medical marijuana patients, I'm not "ignorant" of that at all. I'm a victim of it, and I will continue to speak against it.

What looking glass have you passed through, where my insisting that the medical marijuana law be respected and observed, somehow "doesn't do the mmj cause any good?"

Exactly what "good" are YOU doing the medical marijuana cause, by sticking up for the type of ignorance, intolerance, and disrespect for Washington state's medical marijuana law typified by Rob McKenna?

"Kitsap Bob":
The denial of the incarcerated and probationers mmj sucks. However, we deny that class of folks by law Constitutionally guaranteed rights like Amendment I, Amendment II and Amendment IV. There's probably others also, but you get the point. McKenna is doing his job...period. Change the law and the AG must enforce it.

Well, as a member of "that class of folks," let me just gently point out that I'm not asking for a gun or even that I be given back my right to vote.

All I ask is that I receive the same quality of medical care as everyone else in the state.

I believe it is inhumane to deny medical care to anyone based on their legal status.

McKenna's job is to enforce state law. State law permits medical marijuana. State law doesn't prohibit probationers -- even Democrat probationers! -- from legally using medical marijuana. In fact, under AG Gregoire, probationers used medical marijuana, and society seems to have somehow survived.

Prosecuting mmj patients who are probationers is a development largely of Rob McKenna's creation. If you'd heard the patients at the 4-20 meeting in Seattle describing the day-and-night difference between McKenna's office and his predecessor's when it comes to treatment of mmj patients, maybe you'd have a clue.

"Kitsap Bob":
Here's the real problem as I perceive it. Gregoire is the Big Kahuna of Washington. Her tribe has supermajority status. That means what the Big Kahuna wants the Big Kahuna gets. Her Bull Shit Global Warming legislation demand is one example. She said jump and her useful idiots in the senate and house jumped and had a draconian bill on her desk in record time. I'll bet LESS PEOPLE AGREE WITH THIS ISSUE THAN THE MMJ ISSUE, yet you see where Gregoire and the Democrat party's concerns are...THEFT OF LIBERTY and CONTROL. The circus that developed during the 2006/2007 legislative session with the redefining of initiative 692 should have been illustrative to all how little regard the elite fascist Democrats who are in control have for medical marijuana patients in Washington.

Oh, I see. Global warming is "Bull Shit," those who stick up for the environment are "useful idiots," Democrats are "elite fascists" who want to steal "LIBERTY and CONTROL"... And I'M the one's who's ranting and looking silly? 'K...

"Kitsap Bob":
Almost two thirds of the state approve of medical marijuana, that demographic includes Republicans. If you think Republican's don't sympathize and or participate in the protections of I-692, you're sadly mistaken

Where, exactly, did I say anything about Washington state Republicans not sympathizing with or participating in I-692? Nice try at putting words in my mouth, then disagreeing with them. Oldest trick in the book, but I don't think anybody but you is buying it.

"Kitsap Bob":
When you start with rantings many of us consider nothing more than Bush Derangement Syndrome it only makes us in the mmj movement look silly and pisses off allies.

Ummm, OK. So are you saying you think Bush is a good guy? Good luck convincing anybody but the hardcore faithful of THAT. And with "allies" like Rob McKenna and his apologists -- including, apparently, yourself -- who needs enemies?

Oh. And as far as pissing off allies? Maybe I need to adopt your diplomatic approach; you designated an entire political party as "elite fascist Democrats." Yep, that'll get you lots of allies. Won't piss anybody off, either, ya think?

"Kitsap Bob":
What about our county prosecutor the famous Russ Hauge, he's the leading Democrat in the county and perpetrates many mmj abuses?

Russ Hauge is an ass. So is any other prosecutor, Democrat OR Republican, who is busting and jailing medical marijuana patients. Period.

"Kitsap Bob":
Yes, I read the un-excerpted original letter at your blog about the DEA raiding the Vietnamese gang in Pugetopolis. That is a different issue and it isn't racist. Do you realize there were several murders involved with this group? Bad business and the mmj crowd needs to keep its distance from this type of activity.

Sigh... Because a few Vietnamese people have done bad things, that doesn't make all Vietnamese bad people. What is hard to believe is that I'm even having to point this out to you. Whites and blacks have committed murders around the drug trade as well -- largely because of the huge profits involved, because of their continuing illegality.

What is racist is when law enforcement makes a huge deal out of the fact that a garden supply store advertised in a Vietnamese language publication. The fact that I called them on that has nothing to do with any murders anyone has committed. It's just "guilty by association" or, even worse, "guilty by ethnicity." That's bullshit.

"Kitsap Bob":
Rob McKenna is a states rights guy, not a toady for Bush. If you investigated his positions on any topic rather than producing a juvenile rant you would know this... I consider you a clown with anger issues.

If Rob McKenna were a real state's rights guy rather than a cowardly poseur, he'd stand up for Washington's state law legalizing marijuana for medical use for anyone with a valid doctor's recommendation. Instead of doing that, he marches in lockstep with federal policy -- same as he does on the environment and just about any other issue you can name.

And I'll consider your opinion of me as a "clown" as coming from the same guy who said Democrats are "elite fascists" and global warming is "Bull Shit." In other words, thanks for the endorsement.

"Kitsap Bob":
We can't continue raising our freak flags and expect to be taken seriously in the public realm.

I am who I am. I am what I am. If that's a problem for you, Bob, then that's all it is -- your problem.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Seattle's Chickenshit Mainstream Media Drop The Ball On Operation Green Reaper Pot Busts Story

Bartlett: "...And, and, it's toxic! Yeah, that's it! TOXIC!"

Ah, Seattle. How often you delight me, but how greatly your gutless mainstream media disappoint me.

Case in point: Yesterday's "Operation Green Reaper" marijuana busts, a series of heavily hyped, heavily armed raids on residences and garden supply stores. Federal agents and local police launched the raids, aimed at indoor marijuana growing operations, on April 23, 2008. The authorities claim the grow operations were connected to the owners of garden supply stores in Auburn and Tukwila and a mortgage company in Kent.

Rather than doing any actual journalism -- you know, examining the claims, methods, and motives of the DEA and police who did a King County-wide sweep -- both print and broadcast media, whether through laziness, ineptitude or chicken-shit cowardice, chose to act as PR mouthpieces for law enforcement's doomed efforts to quell the Emerald City's insatiable appetite for sticky green buds.

KOMO News' wholesome, square-jawed Eric Schudiske, in typically nauseating cop-butt-kissing fashion, reported on the Green Reaper busts, and allowed a real whopper to pass him right by.

In Schudiske's "informative" report, we learned from crew-cutted, grimly purposeful First Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Bartlett that -- Holy Shit! -- growing a little Mary Jane results in a "toxic waste site"! Hey Crewcut Dude, it wasn't a meth lab! Just Mother Earth's green herb. Sigh...

The ridiculous statement, completely unsupportable even in cop reality, was allowed to go unchallenged. Now, if you want to believe that soil, light bulbs, and fertilizer are toxic waste, be my guest. But if so, every home, garden and farm in the PNW is a toxic waste site.

We also learned the interesting fact that "good" neighborhoods automatically become "bad" when these evil pot growers and users move in. Or was that some kind of veiled Yellow Peril racial slam against the "Vietnamese gangs" (as the reportage would have it)? Sheesh. Anyway, these dirty hippies, or potheads, or bikers, or Asians, or whatever the hell they're supposed to be are said to leave houses in such bad shape that nobody wants to even buy them! Um-hmm. Whatever you say, Crewcut Dude.

Hey KOMO, it would be really nice if, along with the paranoid cop bullshit, you could mix it up with some, well, actual facts... 'K?

As if all that weren't bad enough, KOMO 4 anchorman Eric Johnson felt it necessary to fawningly intone "That sounds like some good police work, Eric," at the end of the sorry report. I guess a quick loyalty oath is in order, Eric? "Yeah, I hate those dirty pot growers, too!"

And is it my imagination, or is the video of a grow room full of budding plants stock footage that KOMO already had in the can? NWCN and KING didn't have any plant footage, leading Reality Catcher to believe that most of the plants seized were tiny sprouts or clone starts.

In any event, the U.S. attorney's office claimed the owners of Greenhouse Garden Supply in Tukwila and Scitek Garden Supply in Auburn were among 14 people indicted on undoubtedly trumped up charges. (You know the tactic: Load the case up on the front end with a bunch of bullshit charges they know won't stick, so they can take them off one by one later and claim they are giving you a sweet plea deal.)

Smugly self-important Drug Enforcement Agency officials claimed that in one of the homes raided, in Sammamish, agents seized more than 300 marijuana plants and "tens of thousands of dollars in cash." Of those "300 plants," what do you bet that most or all of them were hard to see without a magnifying glass?

According to court documents, the investigation began in January 2007 (bet they spent a few bucks in that 16 months!) and "determined" that the owners of the garden companies were helping people set up indoor marijuana grows, and even offered to help dispose of the plant byproducts that could not be sold to "drug users."

Never mind the fact that they're just looking for someone to blame in their doomed war on medical marijuana growers and users, and that any garden supply store owner or employee in his right mind wouldn't come within 10 feet of anyone babbling about marijuana.

Officials darkly averred that the owner of Scitek Garden Supply placed ads for growing equipment in Vietnamese newspapers -- horrors! I guess ethnic Vietnamese aren't allowed to buy grow lights for tomatoes. Their misguided investigation "connected" the business to growing operations of more than 14,000 marijuana plants. Probably meaning that maybe they sold a few lights to some guy who grew the pot.

In one of the outlandish claims by authorities, surveillance of the business allegedly shows bags of marijuana plant stalks that were being disposed of for the growers. Hey, how do they know those weren't, say, tomato vines or corn stalks? And you have to ask yourself: What possible gain would a garden supply store obtain from disposing of hemp stalks for their customers?

Investigators claimed that Scitek Garden Supply reported a very modest income over an 18-month period, but that the owner actually took in more than $900,000, mostly in cash. Whoa, guess those cop psychic powers are really working overtime. The indictment filed in federal court claims that more than $1.1 million was laundered through Scitek.

Investigators claimed the 19 (or was it 14? depends which report you believe) homes where the actual growing operations were located were purchased through Jet City Mortgage, and authorities, apparently still drawing on their awesome psychic powers, alleged the loan documents were falsified, and small businesses were bribed to falsely verify the employment of the home purchasers.

Hundreds of law enforcement officers happily feeding at the public trough of tax money were involved in serving 20 search warrants throughout the area. The unlucky scapegoats arrested made their initial court appearances in Seattle on drug and money laundering charges.

If found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a $4 million fine.


When, oh when, will the lies and bullshit end? How many lives, and livelihoods, have to be sacrificed on the altar of an expensive, fruitless Drug War?

Bold prediction: These raids will make exactly ZERO impact on the availability of marijuana on Puget Sound.

Just remember, folks: They're spending YOUR tax dollars to pull these asinine capers and to tell these whoppers!

Don't tase me, bro! I gotta call 'em like I see 'em.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Angry Senator Murray Blasts V.A. For Lying About Veteran Suicide Attempts

Tacoma News-Tribune
Published: April 24th, 2008

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs lied about the number of veterans who have tried to kill themselves, Sen. Patty Murray said Wednesday, citing internal e-mails that put the number at 12,000 a year while the department was publicly saying it was fewer than 800.

“The suicide rate is a red alarm bell to all of us,” the Washington state Democrat said. She added that the VA’s mental health programs are overwhelmed by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans even as the department seeks to downplay the situation.

“We are not your enemy, we are your support team, and unless we get accurate information we can’t be there to do our jobs,” Murray said.

VA deputy secretary Gordon Mansfield acknowledged the numbers discrepancy and apologized during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, telling Murray and other senators he didn’t think there was any deliberate attempt to mislead Congress or the public.

But Murray remained skeptical, saying the VA has shown a pattern of misleading Congress when it comes to the increasing number of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking help and putting a strain on Defense Department and VA facilities and programs.

Murray said she told VA Secretary James Peake to fire the man in charge of the department’s mental health programs, Dr. Ira Katz. The senator said Peake had yet to respond to her request.

“I used to teach preschool, and when you bring up a 3-year-old and tell them they have to stop lying, they understand the consequences,” Murray said. “The VA doesn’t. They need to stop hiding the fact this war is costing us in so many ways.”

The existence of the e-mails, uncovered as part of a class-action lawsuit filed against the VA in San Francisco, was first reported Monday by CBS News.

“Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities,” Katz wrote in a Feb. 13 e-mail to Ev Chasen, the department’s communication director. “Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?”

Chasen responded: “I think this is something we should discuss among ourselves, before issuing a press release. Is the fact we are stopping them good news, or is the sheer number bad news? And is this more than we have ever seen before?”

CBS reported that the VA earlier had provided the network with data showing only 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007.

Murray said she was “angry and upset” with the VA. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he too was troubled.

Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, had earlier called for Katz’s resignation.

“How do we trust what you are saying when every time we turn around we find out that what you are saying publicly is different from what you are saying privately?” Murray asked Mansfield. “How can we trust what you are saying today?”

Mansfield responded that the situation was unfortunate and did not “send the right message” to Congress or the public.

“I know Doctor Katz is a dedicated public servant,” he said. “There isn’t a lot the VA should be keeping secret.”

Murray pointed to a RAND Corp. study released last week that showed 320,000 troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have traumatic brain injury and 300,000 troops have post traumatic stress disorder or major depression.

Of those with PTSD or depression, Murray said, only half sought treatment and only half of those have received treatment that was “minimally” adequate.

“I think we ought to be worried,” Murray said, adding that as with Vietnam-era veterans, some of the violent symptoms might not show up for years.

“They can be walking time bombs for decades,” Murray said. “I hope everyone in the VA understands this.”

Mansfield said the VA is spending $3 billion on mental health programs this fiscal year and has 17,000 mental health workers.

“We want to make sure we take care of these individuals,” he said.

News Tribute Reporter Les Blumenthal: 202-383-0008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Washington Atty. Gen. Rob McKenna Likes Playing Doctor

Artwork by Jim Wheeler

Attorney General Rob McKenna isn't a physician. When it comes to medicine, he is no more qualified than any other layman. Yet he feels qualified to second-guess doctors when they recommend legal medical marijuana to patients with terminal or debilitating conditions. And he feels free to deny the best medical care available to an entire [under]class of people (probationers) in the state of Washington.

Rob is, in effect, practicing medicine without a license.

McKenna is the top law enforcement officer in the state. But instead of enforcing the will of the people of Washington, as clearly expressed in state law (RCW 69.51.A), it seems Rob prefers to take his right-wing marching orders from the Bush administration in Washington, D.C.

Rob shows the kind of callow ambition and obnoxious arrogance which is, unfortunately, not uncommon among career politicians with an eye on the Governor's office. Rather than enforcing the law he has sworn to uphold, he prefers to enforce the backwards moral imperialism of his conservative Republican overseers in the federal government.

Rob's ambition outstrips his competence and abilities. He has reportedly never tried a case before a jury. He had never argued an appeal until he became AG. His is a career that has been entirely centered on politics -- and not just garden variety politics, but the self-righteous kind that panders to his far-right base by appearing to be "tough on druggies and criminals," which in this case translates to "arresting sick people who haven't broken the law."

McKenna's name has become synonymous with the kind of SWAT team, kick-the-door-in tactics of which many county drug enforcement units are so fond. On April 20, I was at a Seattle meeting of legal medical marijuana patients, where I heard many sick, disabled, and in many cases, elderly people describe their fear of a visit (or a return visit) from gung-ho deputies who want to be just like the ones on TV.

"...Seeing people in wheelchairs and with other severe illnesses talking about how much they fear the police or about how fervently the prosecutors in this state are still trying to send them to jail is just a jarring experience," writes political blogger Lee Rosenberg, who was at the same Cannabis Congress meeting I attended. "When polled on this subject, overwhelming majorities of this state’s residents support the legality of this medicine and believe doctors should be allowed to authorize it, but that hasn’t translated to real justice for any of these folks. What the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice is doing (and which Rob McKenna’s office is faithfully following) is inexcusable. It’s really hard not to think of it as a human rights violation."

These raids on otherwise law-abiding citizens are happening in no small part because of Rob's policy of aping the Bush Administration's scorn of medical marijuana. The continued prosecution of patients with a legitimate doctor's medical marijuana recommendation is one of the most unbelievably flagrant examples ever of a top law enforcement official ignoring the law.

According to medical marijuana experts and patients, an abrupt change in policy from the AG's office became obvious around July of last year. The office of the previous attorney general, now Gov. Christine Gregoire, took a somewhat more measured and respectful approach to state laws regarding marijuana. But then came Rob, with his big ambitions and his out-of-state shot callers, and public policy did a 180.

You are probably thinking, "But isn't this a shameful waste of taxpayers' money? Shouldn't these law enforcement resources be directed toward real crime? Aren't the courts already snowed under with folks who have at least actually broken the law?"

Yes, yes, and yes.

Sometimes I Feel Like A Low-Hanging Fruit

Among Rob's favorite targets, of course, are the easiest ones (that's how a coward gets down) -- people who have legitimate, physician-approved documentation to legally use medical marijuana, but who are under the supervision of the Washington Department of Corrections as probationers.

Many DOC officials are willing to be reasonable and recognize the medical marijuana law as applying to probationers under their supervision -- but Rob is on a mission from Bush; he'll have none of that. An edict has come down from his office to every probation officer in the state instructing them that probationers under the supervision of the Washington DOC will be declared in violation if they show up positive for marijuana on urinalysis tests.

Lacking the courage or leadership to reveal who gives him orders, McKenna has illegally invoked "attorney-client privilege" when pressed by medical marijuana activists for a copy of the memo in which he has denied Washington patients their legal medicine if they are on probation.

Never mind that the law in Washington explicitly states that "Any person meeting the requirements appropriate to his or her status under this chapter shall be considered to have engaged in activities permitted in this chapter and shall not be penalized in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, for such actions."

That sounds pretty clear to me, Rob. I don't hear any ambiguity in that.

So why is there a two-tiered system of medical care in the state of Washington? Why do, by McKenna's fiat, people on probation receive different, inferior medical care than other citizens?

Who is Rob McKenna to tell suffering patients that they don't really deserve the relief which medical marijuana affords them? Why does Rob feel empowered to sentence probationers to the additional punishment of unremitting nausea and intractable pain?

It's not as if we're asking for guns, or that you give us back the right to vote. Medical marijuana patients, including those on probation, just want to be able to grow and use the herbal medicine that works best for them.

We aren't asking for any special treatment. We only want to be treated just as any other legally qualified patient in the state.

All we ask of Rob is that he enforce and respect the law -- rather than writing his own rules. We ask that he abide by the will of the voters, rather than excluding from the legal medical care available to everyone else, groups which he perhaps finds distasteful.

Last time I checked, Rob got elected Attorney General; he wasn't elected God. When it comes to behavior that is plainly and explicitly protected by the law -- like medical marijuana -- he should keep his narrow-minded moral judgments to himself.

Rob's Also Busy Working For McCain

Rob doesn't spend all of his time ignoring Washington state law to carry out the far-right agenda of Washington, D.C.

He further demonstrates that in his selfish little world, only his political career matters -- the people of Washington be damned -- with the fact that he's also the state chairman of Republican John McCain's campaign for president. So while arresting the sick, disabled and dying isn't occupying his time, he's actively supporting the candidate responsible for sending millions of national defense dollars and thousands of jobs out of Washington state and to a foreign contractor.

As an elected official paid with your tax money, I'll bet you thought he was working for you, fairly and impartially enforcing the law in a non-partisan manner... Yeah, right.

Democratic Chairman Dwight Pelz has called on McKenna to stop putting his partisan loyalty to the Republican Party ahead of the interests of Washingtonians. Pelz says Rob should resign his role as Washington State Chairman of John McCain’s presidential bid. Pelz’s call comes as pressure continues to mount regarding McCain’s role in the Boeing tanker deal controversy.

McCain helped EADS, the French-owned company for which many of his top campaign advisors lobbied to win a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract over Boeinga move that will ship at least 9,000 jobs overseas directly from the state of Washington.

“Now that John McCain has decided to put his lobbyist friends above the interests of Washington’s working families, Republican Rob McKenna should set aside his blind loyalty to the Republican Party and step aside from the campaign,” Pelz said. “Washingtonians quite literally can't afford a third Bush term of failed economic policies that ship American jobs overseas, and Republican Rob McKenna should stop leading that charge here in Washington state.

What Is Rob Thinking?

Why does Rob seem to believe he is a federal agent, when he's been elected to enforce state laws?

Why does Rob believe that he has more power than the voters of Washington, and can therefore disregard their wishes?

Why does Rob believe that he is qualified to make medical decisions?

All I can conclude is that Rob McKenna likes playing doctor.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Media Misled By Pentagon-Controlled 'Military Analysts'

On April 20th, the New York Times exposed a secret Pentagon campaign to infiltrate the media with pro-war propaganda.

Supposedly impartial "military analysts" misled the press with pro-war cheerleading masquerading as unbiased analysis.

It's hard to believe such a brazen and undeniable violation of every conceivable standard of journalism -- and possibly of federal law! -- took place in the United States.

The tendrils of this deceptive propaganda campaign reach all the way to the top of the Bush White House. It's about time our government was held accountable for its despicable attempts to sell an untenable war to the American public.

The war in Iraq is about protecting corporate profits, period. The big oil companies and military contractors are making obscene profits on the blood of patriotic American soldiers -- and untold numbers of Iraqis as well.

Free Press Action Fund is gathering 50,000 signatures to tell the Bush Administration to knock it off. This kind of nonsense is what we'd expect of a totalitarian regime like Communist China, not the United States. Sign now!

Sign the Petition | digg story

Cannabis Congress in Seattle, 4-20-08

A big thank you to Ben Livingston and the rest of the organizers, and to all of the attendees at yesterday's Cannabis Congress at the Downtown Library in Seattle.

Despite a few differences of opinion here and there, we all got to hear some intelligent perspectives on where we are and where we're going with medical marijuana in Washington.

I think the diversity of viewpoints expressed and the variety of methods described are a good thing, and a sign of the health and vitality of this community. The kind of open communication that happened yesterday is good for us all, and will strengthen us in our common purpose. I hate to resort to a cliché, but that which unites us is so much greater than that which divides us.

It is very invigorating to be around a roomful of people who are just as passionate about this issue as myself, and I learned a lot by hearing from Ben Livingston, Steve Sarich, Paul Stanford, Alison Holcomb, Douglas Hiatt, and everyone else who spoke.

I also very much appreciate the chance to speak briefly myself about my treatment as a probationer at the hands of the Washington DOC and Attorney General Rob McKenna. Thanks for the opportunity to sound off.

There are a lot of quality people, a lot of brave and committed and principled people, involved in this community and in this effort, and we aren't going to stop until medical marijuana patients are no longer persecuted for using and growing the medicine that works best for us.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pro-China Hackers Call Off Planned Attack On CNN: They Want Apology For Covering The News

By Robert McMillan

April 19, 2008
IDG News Service

A planned cyberattack against CNN's Web site fizzled out Saturday as the group backing the event called it off.

"Our original plan for 19 April has been canceled because too many people are aware of it and the situation is chaotic," wrote a group called "Revenge of the Flame," according to a translation posted on the Dark Visitor Blog. "At an unspecified date in the near future, we will launch the attack."

Pro-China hackers had called for the attack in protest of the news network's coverage of Tibet, which they believe has been overly critical of China. Participants had been instructed to flood CNN's Web site with Internet traffic in hopes of knocking it offline, something known as a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack.

Some had begun hitting the site ahead of the April 19 attack date.

On Friday CNN reported that it had been attacked Thursday causing the site "to be slow or unavailable to some users in limited areas of Asia." The net effect of the attack was "imperceptible," CNN said.

Network monitoring company Arbor Networks observed that was hit with a minor 14-MB-per-second attack that lasted about 21 minutes, according to Danny McPherson, the company's chief research officer.

Copyright © 2008 IDG News Service. All rights reserved. IDG News Service is a trademark of International Data Group, Inc.

CNN Faces Cyberattack Over Tibet Coverage

By Thomas Claburn

Scott J. Henderson, who runs The Dark Visitor, a blog that follows Chinese hackers, warns on his site that Chinese hackers have posted calls for people willing to participate in a DDoS attack on CNN to punish the network for its coverage of the Chinese crackdown in Tibet. He has listed the URLs for seven sites seeking hackers willing to participate in the attack.

According to Henderson's translation of a post on a Guilin University of Electronic Technology bulletin board, the attack is support to start in earnest at 8 p.m. on April 19 in Beijing, which would be 8 a.m. Saturday in New York.

In an e-mail, Henderson explained that attacks on CNN are being driven by recent reporting that depicts China in an unfavorable light and to coincide with protests in Europe that are planned for April 19. "Some of the Chinese hackers want to relive the glory days of the Sino-U.S. cyberconflict," he said.

With CNN prepared for such an event and growing publicity, it's far from clear that a serious attack will materialize. Some rumored cyberattacks, such as the Nov. 11, 2007, al Qaeda attack that was supposed to affect Western, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim apostate, and Shiite Web sites, never occur.

In fact, as this story was being filed, Henderson called to say that the organizer of this attack now wants to call it off because of the publicity surrounding it. He said it's not clear whether the call to stand down will be observed.

China on Thursday called for a "sincere apology" from CNN for remarks made by network commentator Jack Cafferty, who earlier this month called Chinese leaders "goons and thugs," a move likely to amplify CNN's disrepute among Chinese nationalists.

Henderson said he couldn't predict whether the attack would actually take place or be effective. "However, the Chinese hackers do have quite a bit of experience at this and if they can get the numbers together I imagine they could be highly effective," he said. "Do they have the numbers? Oh, yes, without including botnets they have on hand, the Red Hacker Alliance is made up of well over 300,000 members."

Hacking attacks in support of Chinese nationalism have risen in conjunction with unrest in Tibet. McAfee last week reported that some visitors to pro-Tibet Web sites have had their computers infected with the Fribet Trojan, which allows the attacker to alter files, install additional malware, or monitor input. About a month ago, F-Secure said that pro-Tibet-themed e-mail messages were sent out containing links leading to sites that launched malware attacks. Also in March, Sophos documented infected images related to Tibet.

That same month, the FBI began looking into reports from the Save Darfur Coalition, which has been critical of China, that its e-mail accounts had been compromised by hackers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Last Debate: ABC News Reaches A New Low

To the staff and management of ABC News:

I wanted to register with all of you my extreme disgust with the performance of Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos as hosts of last night's debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Simply put, it was the most pandering, patronizing and shameful exhibition of triviality and pointlessness that I've ever seen in a political broadcast, and I'm 47 years old.

What about the war in Iraq? What about the American economy? What about our policy in regards to China, to Russia, to Iran? What about the mortgage crisis? What about health care? What about gas and groceries that are becoming so expensive that working Americans can barely afford to eat, and to drive to their jobs?

What we, the American public, got instead of substance was jingoism. We got flag lapel pins, and cranky preachers, and guns, and gaffes.

It was a sad night for American politics, a sad night for journalism, and an especially sad night for ABC News (which I won't be watching again for a long time -- maybe ever).

Shame on you. You have wasted valuable airtime, you have squandered a golden opportunity to examine real issues, and you have revealed yourselves to be either totally misguided or massively incompetent.

A concerned American voter,
Steve Elliott
Kingston, Washington

Would you like to send them an email yourself? Here are the addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Have We Sold Our Future? China Waves A Big Stick Over The States

The future of our country has been sold out by the greedy capitalists who own and run the Bush administration.

In order to fund the Iraq war (which protects oil company profits and big defense contractors like Halliburton), our government, under the, er, "leadership" of the Bush administration, borrows massive amounts of money from the Chinese.

With that huge debt comes huge influence by a foreign nation over our economy and our government.

From time to time, whenever the U.S. government considers taking a stand which might make the Chinese "look bad," China brandishes the big stick of this massive debt. It uses the threat of destabilizing the dollar to quickly whip the Americans back into line. Many economists call this the "nuclear option" -- liquidating its vast holding of U.S. treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions.

This is exactly why Bush has refused to boycott the opening ceremonies at the Olympic Games. And this is exactly why Bush removed China from the list of worst human rights abusers in the world -- ironically, just three days before China began its latest brutal crackdown in Tibet. Gee, thanks, George, for basically giving a green light to genocide! (Oh, yeah. I guess you won't say anything about China's genocide in Tibet, as long as they keep financing your genocide in Iraq.)

Starting last fall, the Chinese government began a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of U.S. treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.

Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies gave interviews warning -- for the first time -- that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion of foreign reserves (U.S. debt) as a political weapon to counter pressure from Congress to expand human rights and/or correct the trade imbalance with the States.

Chinese cabinet and academic officials let it be known that Beijing has the power to set off a collapse of the dollar, if it chooses to do so.

Hillary Clinton, contender for the Democratic nomination for president, has called for legislation to prevent America being "held hostage to economic decicions being made in Beijing, Shanghai, or Tokyo." According to Clinton, foreign (mostly Chinese and Japanese) control of 44 percent of the U.S. national debt has left the country dangerously vulnerable to foreign influence.

Whose bright idea was it to cede control of our monetary policies and governmental policies to a foreign power -- while getting almost NOTHING in return?

Please explain to me why selling out our nation's future and our children's birthright for the sake of short-sighted corporate profits is not considered treason. And why aren't those responsible in the Bush administration (from the President on down) and in corporate America being held responsible?

Biggest Trade Deficit In The World

The United States and China share the most imbalanced trade relationship in the world. The United States imports more goods from China than it exports to a tune of at least $202 billion each year. All told, China alone accounts for nearly 26 percent of the United States' $725.8 billion trade deficit.

This imbalance has been the subject of a major political backlash within Congress, where some have charged that the US is "destroying its industrial base to support a communist country's industrialization."

Experts say the trade imbalance is caused in large part by China's low wages and poor workforce. As long as wages are low, the United States will continue to gobble up cheap products made in China, while Chinese consumers will prefer to buy cheaper, Chinese-made alternatives to American products.

Inferior, Dangerous Products

I used the word "cheap" rather than "inexpensive" to describe Chinese products; they are, in fact, both. And the consumer protections and environmental standards we take for granted here in the States range from non-existent to "rarely and inconsistently enforced" in China.

For two recent examples which have negatively impacted Americans, China has exported to the United States children's toys with toxic levels of lead, and pet food with toxic levels of melamine (from tainted wheat gluten and rice protein), resulting in the deaths of dozens or hundreds of beloved family pets in the U.S., and the recall of 60 million cans of pet food imported from China.

Lead-based paint was banned for toys 30 years ago in the United States. But now that China manufactures 80 percent of the world's toys, one can only imagine the number of children worldwide who have received lead poisoning as a result (at low levels, reduced IQ; at higher levels, death).

Just today, the Chinese government demanded an apology from CNN commentator Jack Cafferty after he said the United States imported Chinese-made "junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food," adding: "They're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years," according to a copy of his comments carried on YouTube.

(Side note: for a real laugh-a-minute good time, check out the Chinese comments on the video. Inferiority complexes and violent threats abound.)

Entering The Labyrinth

So how and when did I become concerned about all this?

When I posted news video of the pro-Tibet protests surrounding the running of the Olympic torch in Paris a few days ago, I really had no idea of the hornets' nest into which I was stumbling. It seems every avenue I turn down in my political education opens up whole new labyrinthine worlds of knowledge, and this was certainly no exception.

One of the first things I noticed in the comments section of the video was that most of the comments were (a) pro-China, anti-Tibet and (b) posted by YouTube profiles which had been freshly created in the days since China's violent crackdown on pro-independence protests in Tibet.

It didn't take me long to figure out that the Chinese government was responsible for creating these accounts in a desperate attempt at repairing their image in the eyes of the world. Their abysmal human rights record and long history of suppressing dissent (everyone remembers Tiananmen Square, the pro-democracy protests that were crushed by tanks and troops in 1989) has, understandably, left them with a badly tarnished reputation in the world community.

Now, in some ways I'm a typical schlub who doesn't really register unpleasant realities until they are in my face. I didn't (I'm ashamed to say) really inform myself about the extent of Chinese influence on our governmental policies, public debates, and monetary decisions until that fact was brought to my attention by the comments on the YouTube video I posted.

But now that my eyes have been opened to this stuff, I am noticing, big time. Hey, China: Congratulations. You've converted one idle dabbler into an active adversary. It is ON, now.

The YouTube shenanigans aren't all the Chinese have been doing. The Chinese consulate made the recent running of the Olympic flame in San Francisco its top priority. Several hours before the ceremony, the Chinese bussed in more than a thousand Chinese supporters -- including some from as far away as Los Angeles -- and put all the out-of-towners up in local hotels.

But the pro-China supporters weren't content to merely demonstrate. They actually beat and roughed up pro-Tibet demonstrators (right here on American soil!), injuring several, ripped banners and flags from their hands and called them "betrayers" and "not qualified to be Chinese."

An eyewitness account from an anti-Beijing protestor on the ground:

Things grew even worse when the four protesters went to open a banner about the human rights abuses in China. Immediately, someone came up to grab their banner. When the police did not respond, the pro-Beijing supporters became even bolder. During the conflict, someone hit the back of Guo's head causing his head to bleed. Guo's wound did not awaken any sympathy from the people around him, and they continued to push him back and forth and wrap him with red flags. "It seems like the assembly of condemnation during the 'Cultural Revolution' period," Zhou declared.

Zhou tried to push through the crowd because his friend Guo [bleeding after having been struck in the head by Beijing supporters] was getting away and disappeared in the red flags, but he saw a scene even more shocking, a group of pro-Beijing Chinese were beating a man, obviously a Chinese, who was trying to display a flag with the slogan "Let Justice Be Seen."

By helping the guy, Zhou made himself a target also. "They called us 'American Dogs,' 'animals' and pushed and beat us. The spectators and police were in shock, until a Westerner passing by shouted to them, 'Don't you know this is America?!'" said Zhou.

The boldness of the Chinese thugs no doubt sprang not only from the inaction of the San Francisco Police Department, but also from the smug knowledge that the United States owes their country lots and LOTS of money.

Chinese-scripted 'protest against the Dalai Lama' in Seattle yesterday

All the stops were also pulled out for the Dalai Lama's appearance in Seattle this week. A protest against the Dalai Lama's visit was staged April 14 (under the close supervision of Chinese officials, no doubt) by about 400 Chinese nationals on the campus of the University of Washington. Of course, the 400 anti-Dalai Lama protesters received the press coverage, while the 8,000 Dalai Lama supporters inside to hear His Holiness speak went virtually unmentioned.

And during the Dalai Lama's speech to an enthusiastic crowd of 50,000 supporters at Qwest Field, an airplane trailing a banner reading "Dalai Lama Pls Stop Supporting Riots" flew over the field.

There is, of course, an inequity here. The Chinese in America take full advantage of the relative openness of our society, while not extending the same latitude to American visitors in their country. Since the avenues of public demonstrations and online forums such as YouTube are available to them here, they use those venues to push their views (many, myself included, would say "propaganda") while shutting down any dissent at home in China and in occupied Tibet. Protesters in China and Tibet are arrested, beaten, shot, or run down with tanks by their own people for doing much the same thing that they are freely allowed to do here -- protesting government policies.

When America says China is maybe a little more violent than necessary in its crackdown on Tibet, and, you know, probably shouldn't be shooting and beating so many Tibetans, China screams "You can't interfere in our internal affairs! China is a sovereign nation!" Chinese President Hu Jintao actually had the cojones to flatly state: "China does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs, nor does it try to impose its own will on others."

Yet when the U.S. meekly suggests that maybe China should adjust the value of its currency because of our massive trade imbalance, then Beijing threatens to collapse the value of the American dollar, and instructs Congress to do no such thing. "Does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs"? "Does not try to impose its own will on others?"

(When the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson recently visited China -- one of many trips he's made there, trying to convince them to raise the value of the yuan to help correct the trade imbalance -- he, of course, once again came back empty handed.)

I'm the last guy in the world who'd want to be some flag-waving, xenophobic reactionary. But it disturbs me -- no, it PISSES ME THE FUCK OFF -- when some government bureaucrat in China gets to set the terms of the debate here in America, while Americans (or, for that matter, Chinese citizens themselves) have no voice or rights at all in China.

And when I realize it is our own government that has allowed this to happen, for the sake of some war profiteer's bottom line, and to pay for a stupid war in Iraq for oil profits, I realize that we must change our government -- before it becomes a branch office of Beijing.

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Check out this video: Ha Ha Ha America

Ha Ha Ha America

Monday, April 14, 2008

McCain More Conservative Than His Image

Apr 14, 4:49 AM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - The independent label sticks to John McCain because he antagonizes fellow Republicans and likes to work with Democrats.

But a different label applies to his actual record: conservative.

The likely Republican presidential nominee is much more conservative than voters appear to realize. McCain leans to the right on issue after issue, not just on the Iraq war but also on abortion, gay rights, gun control and other issues that matter to his party's social conservatives.

The four-term Arizona senator, a longtime member of the Armed Services Committee, criticized the earlier handling of the war but has been a crucial ally in President Bush's effort to increase and maintain U.S. forces in Iraq.

Besides the war, McCain agrees broadly with Bush and other conservatives on:

- Abortion. McCain promises to appoint judges who, in the mold of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, are likely to limit the reach of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. McCain's record is not spotless on abortion: He said once, in 1999, that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned. But that amounted to a blip in an otherwise unbroken record of opposing abortion rights for women.

"I am pro-life and an advocate for the rights of man everywhere in the world," McCain told the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. "Because to be denied liberty is an offense to nature and nature's Creator."

- Gay rights. McCain opposes gay marriage. True, he does not support a federal ban on gay marriage on grounds the issue traditionally has been decided by states. But McCain worked to ban gay marriage in Arizona. He also supports the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and he opposed legislation to protect gay people from job discrimination or hate crimes.

"I'm proud to have led an effort in my home state to change our state constitution and to protect the sanctity of marriage as between a man and woman," he told CNN in March. "I will continue to advocate for those fundamental principals of our party and our faith."

- Gun control. McCain voted against a ban on assault-style weapons and for shielding gun-makers and dealers from civil suits. He did vote in favor of requiring background checks at gun shows, but in general he sides with the National Rifle Association in favor of gun rights.

When the Supreme Court held arguments last month on Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban, McCain said it was "a landmark case for all Americans who believe, as I do, that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms."

His conservatism could be a problem for McCain - particularly if this November's contest is as close as recent presidential elections, which were decided by independent-minded voters in the center of the political spectrum.

But he might avoid this problem to the extent people know him as an independent-minded politician. And many do view him that way.

"People see him as a centrist. They don't see him as a conservative," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Democrats are trying to change the perception of McCain. The Democratic National Committee insists that McCain's election would amount to a third term for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"All he offers is four more years of the failed Bush economy, an endless war in Iraq and shameless hypocrisy on ethics reform," DNC Chairman Howard Dean said last month.

But one broader issue could figure prominently in November - the tumbling economy and consequent job losses, home foreclosures and soaring energy prices.

Those could prove troublesome for McCain, and not only because he acknowledges he's no economic expert.

"We are surely in a time of deep economic insecurity for a majority of the American people," said Curtis Gans, director of American University's Center for the Study of the American Electorate. "That has always led to two things: somewhat higher turnout, and votes against the party in power."

"We are also in a deeply unpopular war," Gans said. "Where there are these differences, and strong differences, they could be in the Democrats' direction."

The Original AP Story

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Chinese Government Agents Invade YouTube

A veritable army of Chinese government cyber-agents has swarmed over YouTube, bullying pro-Tibet users, monopolizing comment boards on pro-Tibet videos, and setting up anti-Tibet YouTube channels in an attempt to salvage the dismal image of the autocratic Beijing government, host of the 2008 Olympics.

A few days ago, I captured some video of the  pro-Tibet protests surrounding the running of the Olympic torch in Paris. I did so because the brave struggle of the Tibetan people against their Chinese oppressors, ongoing since the Beijing government invaded and subdued the Tibetans in 1950 (resulting in the eventual exile in 1959 of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama), is one of many human rights causes worldwide in which I am interested.

The pro-Tibet Olympic protests are a response to March's bloody Chinese crackdown on Tibet. The brutal repression, which, coincidentally or not, caused a major embarrassment to the Bush Administration, because it began just three days after President Bush removed China from a blacklist of nations which abuse human rights, involved at least 20,000 troops, and has resulted in the deaths of dozens or hundreds of Tibetans.

The response to my posting of that video has been sinister, sobering and disturbing. To an extent I've never seen before on the Internet, people who are obviously paid agents of a government's (China's) party line have invaded and monopolized the comments for this video, and for many other YouTube videos depicting the anti-Beijing protests in London, Paris, and elsewhere.

In a chillingly robotic and Orwellian way, these manufactured YouTube profiles yammer on endlessly about the utopia that Tibet has been under Chinese rule (what a cruel joke THAT is), about how Tibet "has always been a part of China," and about how Buddhism is in fact a violent religion (they use World War II-era Japan as an example, and even stoop to reach back 800 years to mention Genghis Khan).

I just started investigating this story, and have already learned that others have discovered that, just since the latest Tibetan protests, YouTube has become rife with Chinese agents.

The democratic and uncontrollable nature of YouTube and of the Internet scares the hell out of China. That's why YouTube is blocked there. That's why China asked Google to "filter" (censor) search results made from within China -- a request with which cowardly Google, to its eternal shame, has complied.

Left, uncensored Google results about Tiananmen Square; right, the censored Chinese version
Source: A Picture Says 1000 Words About Google's Censorship In China

Google said in 2006 it would launch versions of its search and news Web sites in China that censor material deemed objectionable to authorities there, reasoning that people getting limited access to content is better than none.

Reporters Without Borders, a France-based group that defends freedom of the press, blasted Google, saying the company was taking an immoral position that could not be justified. "By offering a version without 'subversive' content, Google is making it easier for Chinese officials to filter the Internet themselves. A Web site not listed by search engines has little chance of being found by users," the group said in a statement. "The new Google version means that even if a human rights publication is not blocked by local firewalls, it has no chance of being read in China."

Meanwhile, Microsoft admitted removing the blog of an outspoken Chinese journalist from its MSN Spaces site, citing its policy of adhering to local laws. Microsoft also acknowledged censoring words like "freedom" and "democracy" from its Chinese MSN portal site.

Ever since the pro-Tibet protests began, users within China trying to access YouTube now get a blank screen and an error message saying the web page could not be displayed.

Nothing scares an autocratic regime, which relies on a brainwashed and fearful population trained for blind loyalty, more than the unfettered flow of information and ideas. Both Pakistan and Myanmar (the former due to anti-Islamic content, the latter due to anti-government unrest) have blocked access to YouTube recently because they fear their own people. Brazil, Iran, Morocco, Thailand, and Turkey have also blocked or disrupted access to YouTube in the recent past.

An informed populace is a scary thing to those who would control your very thoughts.

That the Chinese leadership has gone to such absurd and undignified lengths to prevent their own populace from accessing ideas and information counter to the party line is eloquent testimony to their fear of, and unwillingness to engage in, a real debate.

That's one reason for the laughably inept, ham-fisted nature of their attempts to monopolize the ongoing Internet conversation regarding the suppression of dissent in Tibet.

They pretend to be engaging, when in actuality they are sadly limited to a few minor variations of the same old party line.

Let me give you an example:

"bhshootingstar," a profile created on March 31, 2008, posted:

In old Tibet before 1950, 88 percent of Tibeten people were born as slaves. Slaves didn't belong to themselves, they belong to their slave masters who occupied 5% of Tibeten population at that time. Slaves could be sold,bought,abused at the will of their masters![...]
Those Chinese who abolished the slave system in Tibet in 1950s are heros either.

Perhaps the most incongruous argument they make, in view of their contention that Tibet has always been a part of China, is their repeated criticism of what they call the slave-holding, feudalist nature of Tibet before China took over.

So, which way is it, Beijing? Has Tibet always been a part of China, or did China come in and set the Tibetans straight? You can't have it both ways.

For countless other examples, ad nauseum, visit any of the other YouTube videos on pro-Tibet protests.

But the Chinese government hasn't been content to just try to monopolize the debate on pro-Tibet videos. They have also created multiple, pro-China, anti-Tibet YouTube channels of their own, under various guises, and thereon posted revisionist videos whose basic point is that China's glorious "liberation" of Tibet is responsible for pretty much everything good that has ever happened to the Tibetans.

For just one example of these Chinese propaganda YouTube channels (there are many, many others), visit the site of "Monarex," apparently based in Los Angeles:

If you visited the above link, you saw for yourself the tiresome, predictable party-line bullshit of the Chinese government.

You must remember this is the very same Chinese government that shot and drove tanks over their own people in Tiananmen Square in 1989. It is one of the most totalitarian, brutally repressive regimes in human history.

Judge its words accordingly.

These bogus YouTube profiles, in many cases, were created expressly to trash the Tibetan people, their ancient culture, and their religion.

Don't be taken in.

China is rightly embarrassed by its abysmal human rights record, and they are desperately trying to repair their tarnished image worldwide. They see the upcoming Olympic games as an opportunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of a world horrified by the human rights abuses that occur in China on a daily basis.

Their repeated exhortations of the Chinese to "keep sports and politics separate" ring particularly hollow, since they themselves are the ones turning the Games into a political propaganda event. For the nearest parallel in the 20th Century, think the 1936 Olympics in Berlin -- which were (mis)used by Hitler's Nazi Germany for image-burnishing propaganda purposes -- even as he planned the construction and operation of concentration camps.
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Friday, April 11, 2008

Why Is Cheney Smiling?

In this photo of Vice President Dick Cheney, released by the White House to show his supposed love of the outdoors, there appears to be a naked woman in his reflecting sunglasses.

Inept White House officials rushed to offer an ham-handed explanation of the photo, quickly releasing a "high definition" version of the same photo (retouched, this time?) and insisting that the reflection only shows the Vice President's hand holding a fishing rod.

But, who knows? Maybe the entire story originated in the White House itself -- attempting to draw media and public attention away from the breaking news of long-awaited proof that Cheney himself approved and micromanaged, from the basement of the White House, the torture of suspects being held at Guantanamo. Could it be coincidence that the stories broke on the very same day?

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