Monthly Archives: December 2008

Crooked Drug-War Cops (are there any other kind?)

KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana. When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house.
The trap was set and less than 24 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the house only to find KopBuster’s attorney waiting under a system of complex gadgetry and spy cameras that streamed online to the KopBuster’s secret mobile office nearby.

On a scale of one to ten for awesome, this rates an eleven. You would think the Odessa police would have better things to do, but what with the money-making aspects of the ridiculous war on drugs via asset forfeiture, it is much more lucrative to chase down pine trees than it is to fight crime.

Hat tip to John Cole at Balloon-Juice, my favorite blog.

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Devastating Rolling Stone Feature Blames 'No on 8' Campaign For Prop. 8's Success

From QUEERTY:

In what amounts to a direct hit to the solar plexus of No on 8 Campaign leaders, the latest issue of Rolling Stone has a story called "Same-Sex Setback: Don't blame Mormons or black voters – the California activists who tried to stop Prop 8 ran a lousy campaign" by Tim Dickinson that brings the gay community's internal debate over the effectiveness of the No on 8 campaign to the mainstream public.

Queerty readers will recognize a lot of the criticisms– a lack of central organization, idiotic ads, failure to engage minorities and grassroots leaders, the psychotic lack of a ground game, it even compares the No on 8 campaign to the McCain campaign, which is something we do all the time here– but this is the first time a mainstream publication has tackled the issue head-on and the article is likely to shift the public debate over Prop. 8.

Let's just go to the quotes, shall we?


"This was political malpractice," says a Democratic consultant who operates at the highest level of California politics. "They fucked this up, and it was painful to watch. They shouldn't be allowed to pawn this off on the Mormons or anyone else. They snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and now hundreds of thousands of gay couples are going to pay the price."

"From the start, the leaders of the No on Prop 8 campaign and their high-priced consultants failed to realize what they were up against. According to Geoff Kors, who headed the campaign's executive committee, the No side anticipated needing no more than $20 million to stop the gay-marriage ban. The Yes side, by contrast, set out to change how initiative politics are played, building a well-funded operation that rivaled a swing-state presidential campaign in its scope and complexity."

"The No on Prop 8 campaign, meanwhile, was oblivious to the formidable field operation that the other side was mounting. Worse, its executive committee refused to include leaders of top gay and lesbian grass-roots organizations, which deprived them of an army of willing foot soldiers. "We didn't have people going door to door," admits Yvette Martinez, the campaign's political director. The field operation consisted of volunteers phone-banking from 135 call centers across the state, an effort that didn't begin ramping up until mid-October.
"They had no ground game," says a leading Democratic consultant. "They thought they could win this thing by slapping some ads together. It was the height of naiveté."

"Until the final days, the campaign failed to take advantage of the backing of every major newspaper in the state, as well as that of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former President Bill Clinton and future President Barack Obama. In one bizarre episode, an outside consultant was forced to "jackhammer" the campaign leadership simply to convince them to make use of a robo-call from Bill Clinton. The campaign also rejected a Spanish-language ad featuring Dolores Huerta, a heroine of the United Farm Workers union."

It really just goes on and on like this and the whole article is a must-read. The failure of the No on 8 campaign has galvanized the community in an unprecedented way and the resulting movement and nascent coalition of civil rights activists that have marched, protested and boycotted since Nov. 4th represent the new face of the gay community. While No on 8 leaders like Lori L. Jean have stood on podiums and said, "There is only one group responsible for [the passage of Prop. 8]– The Mormon Church", we now know that is not the case, if we ever believed it to begin with.

The article ends on a positive note, pointing out that because Prop. 8 passed because of mismanagement and that the vote was close it is possible to win at the ballot box. As we previously reported, No on 8 leaders have been wary post-election to embrace another ballot fight, believing that the gay community should focus its efforts on the courts.

Of course, the question now is, "Who's going to listen to them?"

This Rolling Stone article is being met with a lot of defensiveness and clutching of pearls (read the comments on QUEERTY). “How dare they criticize us! We’re the victims here!”

I feel that this post election analysis is CRUCIAL if we are to learn our lessons. It’s not about blame, it’s about analysis. We NEED to know what went wrong so we know what to do next time. And part of knowing what went wrong is a sober, honest look at our own side.
 
It is absolutely true that the leaders of the No-on-8 campaign made some terrible mistakes. I don’t believe they should fall on their swords, as do many. But I do think they committed political malpractice and should never be let near another campaign. Ever. On the other hand, had they done everything perfectly, I believe it most likely would not have been enough. The simple fact of the matter is that the No-on-8 campaign did not get the money early, and early money is crucial for victory. They got the lion's share of the money in the last couple weeks of the campaign. That’s too late. Early money buys the best air time. Early money generates buzz. Early money gets the ground game going – (Yes-on8 had had an amazing ground game, we had none). It is true: Early money wins elections. Ever heard of EMILY? Early Money Is Like Yeast, because it helps to raise the dough. Early money raises more money.

I was very close to this issue and I'm fucking pissed. But when looking at the campaign (any campaign), I try to analyze it dispassionately. I try to see it in terms of what worked and what did not, what was done well and what was done badly. Mostly, try to see this (and every election) in terms of what we need to do in order to get what we want. This is important if you want to win next time. And I want to win next time.

Criticism is not simply The Blame Game. It is necessary and healthy and we absolutely need it. The No-on-8 campaign should suffer a severe, painful audit; an analysis so probing and so far up the asses of the leaders that we know what they ate for breakfast. And they must submit to this analysis and judgment without getting defensive. We need this so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes next time. This is bigger than them.

The way I see it is simple. Prop-8 ran a GREAT campaign (lies and all). They lied well, they lied early and they were unbelievably organized. The people who (somehow) were in charge of running the No-on-8 campaign ran a historically TERRIBLE campaign, strenuous efforts by the volunteers notwithstanding. And they didn’t get most of their money until really late in the game, compared to the bigots. That's the sad truth.

What were the results? Public opinion was pushed in the Pro-8 direction by over 20 points (way before our side matched their side in funding). The amount of shift in numbers was simply amazing (ask any political consultant – that’s a herculean task to drag public opinion that far). Any cursory analysis of their ground game shows a level of sophistication never before seen for a mere ballot prop. They hit us with a tsunami of money and volunteers and our side flailed about. We flailed admirably and bravely, but we never had any hope. What little our side managed to do in the face of this tsunami was insufficient, done badly and far too late.

Lesson learned.

Next time, let's at the very least make sure these people are nowhere near the leadership of the next marriage equality battle:

The Shit list – NEVER LET THESE PEOPLE WORK ON ANOTHER CAMPAIGN


Shannon Minter

Legal Director,
National Center for Lesbian Rights


Lorri L. Jean
Chief Executive Officer,
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

 


Geoff Kors
Executive Director,
Equality California

 

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

No on 8 Senior Campaign Consultant, Dewey Square

 

Rev. Eric Lee
Rev. Eric Lee
President/Chief Executive Officer, Southern Christian Leadership Conference Los Angeles 


Karen Ocamb
News Editor, Frontiers Magazine and IN Los Angeles Magazine

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Happy Birthday, Amendment 21!

Seventy-five years ago (December 5, 1933, to be exact) the United States of America repealed its ban on alcoholic beverages.

But even though you won't find a soul alive who thinks the repeal was a bad idea, we continue to live day after day with the disastrous consequences of a drug policy that is as misguided as was prohibition.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Ethan Nadelman, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Nadelman wrote:

Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.

And look abroad. At Afghanistan, where a third or more of the national economy is both beneficiary and victim of the failed global drug prohibition regime. At Mexico, which makes Chicago under Al Capone look like a day in the park. And elsewhere in Latin America, where prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption undermine civil authority and public safety, and mindless drug eradication campaigns wreak environmental havoc.

All this, and much more, are the consequences not of drugs per se but of prohibitionist policies that have failed for too long and that can never succeed in an open society, given the lessons of history. Perhaps a totalitarian American could do better, but at what cost to our most fundamental values?

Just like you can't find a soul who will say that repeal of prohibition was a mistake, you won't find a soul who will tell you our current drug policy has erased the drug problem.

Yet we continue to treat drug policy as a hypothetical issue, focused on the potential consequences of reform, rather than the disastrous consequences of what we are doing now.

The question isn't just about the pharmacological impacts of drugs. The question is also about the damage our current regulatory regime is inflicting on our society, economy, and criminal justice system. The question is whether we are getting our money's worth from the $50 billion we spend each year on the drug war. The question is whether there are better ways to allocate our resources than by focusing the bulk of that money on drugs — like marijuana — that are probably less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

But until we collectively — as citizens — make it clear to our political leaders that it is acceptable to talk about the consequences of our drug policy, as opposed to a blind focus on nothing but the consequences of drugs, we're never going to make any progress.

If we don't change, we're going to continue having hundreds of brutal murders occuring not just across the border, but also right here at home. And we're going to continue to have American citizens addicted to drugs, wasting their futures.

So we need to rethink this drug policy of ours, because it just isn't working. It never has, and until we find the courage to change, it never will.

H/T Jed at DK

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Two conflicting view points

I find this story about iodine insufficiency causing problems and how adding just a teensy bit to the water supply in poorer countries would raise the IQ up a few points. (also here if you prefer that whole paper-of-record thing)

butting heads with this post on my favorite blog after this one:

I don’t think most people really appreciate how important good salt and good pepper are for cooking. I watch people go through all sorts of elaborate rituals with their cooking, using expensive ingredients and arcane procedures to cook their “gourmet” meal, and then I watch them use Morton’s table salt and/or McCormick’s pure ground pepper (which is really only good for sneezing) and wonder what the hell they are thinking.

Me and my husband HP use kosher salt for cooking. It's easier to work with and all the chefs on foodnetwork.com always say to use it. Over and over again.  It goes without saying what I think of pre-ground pepper. I won't let that drek in the kitchen.

But I sometimes wonder about where I'm supposed to get my iodine, since I'm not getting it in my salt. And now I know why I keep forgetting to do something about it – I'm 'effing retarded from iodine insufficiency, that's why. 

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Service outage apology email from the USA

Dear World:

 The United States of America, your quality supplier of ideals of liberty
 and democracy, would like to apologize for its 2001-2008 service outage.

 The technical fault that led to this eight-year service interruption has
 been located, and the parts responsible for it were replaced Tuesday
 night, November 4. Early tests of the newly-installed equipment indicate
 that it is functioning correctly, and we expect it to be fully
 functional by mid-January.

 We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage, and we look
 forward to resuming full service — and hopefully even to improving it
 in years to come.

 Thank you for your patience and understanding,

 The USA

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Neil Patrick Harris and Jack Black in Prop 8: The Musical

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Hairspray composer Marc Shaiman (whose boycott lead to the resignation of Sacramento's California Musical Theatre creative director Scott Eckern following his donation to Prop 8) wrote and conceived this hilarious short piece (presented with a wink and a nod by the 'Sacramento Community College Players'), which was directed and staged by Hairspray director and choreographer Adam Shankman and features plenty of folks you will recognize.

Shaiman plays the piano. Jordan Ballard, Margaret Cho, Barrett Foa, J.B. Ghuman, John Hill, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, Rashad Naylor, Nicole Parker star as 'California Gays and The People That Love Them'. John C Reilly as a Prop 8 leader, and Alison Janney as his wife. Kathy Najimy as his second wife. Jenifer Lewis as a riffing Prop 8'er. Craig Robinson as a preacher. Rashida Jones, Lake Bell, Sarah Chalke as Scary Catholic School Girls from Hell. Katharine "Kooks" Leonard, Seth Morris, Denise "Esi!" Piane, Lucian Piane, Richard Read, Seth Redford, Quinton Strack, and Tate Taylor as The Frightened Villagers.

Jack Black stars as Jesus Christ, and Neil Patrick Harris is billed as 'A Very Smart Fellow'. 

Prop 8 – The Musical

Hat tip to the towell blog.

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