Currently viewing the tag: "radley balko"

    via the AP

    Politics is the worst thing, and so is making politicians into cults of personality, but I am still very happy that Justin Amash kept his seat.

  • I am even more glad that DC, Oregon, and Alaska legalized recreational marijuana. This is amazing. And disturbingly, it does make paying attention to election day less of a purely awful hellscape situation than it was pre-2012.
  • On Friday and Monday, Radley Balko, busy doing something journalistic, had me cover for him at his Washington Post blog. This was — obviously — a huge deal, and a huge privilege for me. I had two links, and three longer blogs. One is on sentencing reform, the other is on criminalizing charity, and one other is on reported piece on a wrong-door drug raid that police apologized for, but it still scared the hell out of the resident of the wrong apartment.
  • (Also, Kurt Loder was the first person to congratulate me for the Watch thing — and infer its awesomeness — so my life is pretty kick-ass right now.)
  • My recent Antiwar and Rare pieces were both about being afraid that federal agencies do whatever they want, and turns out that includes chilling with a surprising number of Nazis.
  • I don’t approve of taking dogs to war, but this guy is still precious. [Hat tip to Julia.]
  • Sacrebleu! 
  • Me in real life.
  • Journalism critique: The New Yorker should never publish poetry or politics or fiction again, but only publish articles about Tavi Gevinson or A Canticle for Leibowitz.
  • I finally listened to the entirety of Harry Smith’s Anthony of American Folk Music in order, so I can definitely attend snobby parties of a particular sort. Ones that take place in 1960, really.
  • Whenever my video chat connection is bad, I make the same joke about someone looking as if they are on MIR in the 1980s. This article is slightly relevant to that interest,in that it is about video chatting with the USSR in the 1980s.

Today’s video:

’cause Mike Miller is going to be on Politics for People Who Hate Politics tomorrow at 6 pm. Do tune in.

  • I also have this sweet new graphic.Taking full advantage of Eric Garris and Justin Raimondo’s genrous “write about whatever the hell you want” spirit, I wrote an anti-death penalty piece for It was originally supposed to have a bit stronger of a tie with war stuff, but that got away from me, Nevertheless, I don’t think it turned out so bad. Certainly not as bad as the commenters of Antiwar thought. Whoo boy.
  • Radley Balko wrote an excellent piece about why conservatives should be opposed to the death penalty. It’s like a way better version of my very first Reason piece back in the day.
  • Over at the Daily Caller, Chris Morgan wrote a very biting piece on how America’s death penalty is how you know it’s a great country.
  • And if you have never read it, I highly recommend checking out the New Yorker piece on the tragedy of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for killing his three children by burning down his own house. At this point, we can safely say he didn’t do it. (No matter how chill Rick Perry gets about weed — because it’s now trendy — he’s got Willingham’s blood on his hands, if nothing else.)
  • Also, Balko has a further point:


  • I wrote another thing, for Rare, about a handful of the creepy, anti-homeless measures passed in various states and cities across the US, as well as liberals’ commendable dislike of these measures, and their frustrating inability to take that to its proper conclusion.
  • Politico mag surveyed the White House Press Corps, and I am not impressed.
  • Hashtagnerdprom is coming up! That makes it the perfect time to read my tale of attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2012. My one regret is that I let the one Denver Post dude shame me into standing for a hot minute. I did not clap, at least. In fact, I have not clapped for Obama AND Bush. How bipartisan am I?!
  • Mediaite ed-in-chief/friend Andrew Kirell is sassy and mocks some of the morons of Sean Hannity’s weed panel (biggest panel ever, am I right?). I share Kirell’s delight in the fact that several panelists laugh in Todd Starnes’ face when he starts hand-writing about morality and weed overdoses, or something.
  • I recently watched this entire video, because I adore Tavi Gevinson. It’s basically turtles all the way down, because liking Tavi Gevinson is sort of mainstream, but borderline hipster danger territory. But as Ms. Gevinson has mused on often, over-thinking about whether what you like is what you like because you like it gets boring after a while. Gevinson is great, because she is all about the things you love being a kind of totem to hold tight to when the world gets a bit dodgy. And being a cool teen herself, she helped me accept that I am listening to Townes van Zandt right now, I listened to Taylor Swift yesterday, and it’s going to be okay. It will be.

  • Speaking of which:

(No, I am not emotionally prepared to share which Taylor Swift songs I enjoy. Give me time, people. Give me time.)

  • 6-8-07-segway-policeI love(d) my grandparents. I might love them slightly more if they turned out to have broken into an FBI office and stolen documents about COINTELPRO. Damn.
  • Thaddeus Russell on “The Paternalists’ Bible”
  • Two more victims of the Satanic sexual abuse hysteria are free from prison. Only took 20 years!
  • Radley Balko has made his move to The Washington Post, thereby raising the credibility of their editorial pages/blog, uh, pages by an astronomical degree. He writes in his introduction this libertarian poetry: “People move to Washington because they see themselves becoming president someday. People move to Nashville because they see themselves opening for Willie Nelson someday. I find the latter to be a much nobler ambition.” Amen, Balko. Amen.
  • Pennsylvania considering the use of civil asset forfeiture in human trafficking cases. Look at this heartening phrase: “Under the proposal, if a suspect is accused of trafficking in people, any property used in that crime could  be seized by law enforcement.” Accused! I am sure no voluntary prostitution will get lazily lumped in with trafficking. And why wait until someone has been convicted of a crime before you take their property, civil asset forfeiture needs only that you be “accused.”
  • Cathy Reisenwitz and Jeffrey Tucker on the surprising feminism of Ludwig von Mises! (I was surprised, hence the punctuation.)
  • Aeon magazine on “creepypasta” and its status as the urban legends/folktales for an internet age. 
  • Dom Flemons from the Carolina Chocolate Drops wrote a fascinating essay in The Oxford American. It covers Gus Cannon (of the excellent old timey Cannon’s Jug Stompers), Booker T. Washington, and the general complexity behind some of the more now-cringeworthy minstrel-ish songs from back in the day.
  • I adore io9 most of the time, but they still put out this lazy, lazy post on Bitcoins. 
  • Buzzfeed — an outlet I defend on occasion, if only for its reporting and longreads — is shockingly inane on The Simpsons here. The writer watched some of the most classic episodes of one of the best shows of all time and wrote a post that suggested she had never seen a cartoon before. I realize being annoyed by a Buzzfeed entertainment post is also inane, but damn. What is this?
  • Bettie Page, once known by men who needed a little staggish excitement is now mostly loved and copied by ladies. Rockabilly cliche or not, I also love Page’s attitude. Nobody else could look quite so happy to be naked as she. (Though all of us ladies who sometimes suffer a misguided urge to cut their hair into bangs should blame her for that a little. )

Today’s video is Willie Watson, formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show.

He’s working on a solo album produced by Dave Rawlings. I am very excited about this.

Today’s video:

Old Crow Medicine Show playing “Sewanee Mountain Catfight” off of their most recent album. This is a ridiculous song that sets my toes tapping. The killer fiddle helps. Fiddle usually does.

2012 saw two states legalize (and regulate) recreational marijuana.These victories — this amazing feeling that something is really shifting on the drug war, albeit far too slowly — are heady for the anti-drug war advocate. But they should not make anyone soft on the other horrors of the drug war. Especially those that stem from crackdowns on stronger, more dangerous and controversial drugs, in particular prescription drugs — especially painkillers.

Advocates for Amendment 64 in Colorado did heroic work all last year and they took an unprecedented step towards ending the drug war. I don’t mean to bash anyone who has done better work than most pure libertarians up in their think tank towers have in 70 years, but I confess to cringing a little at the Marijuana Majority‘s  “regulation works” signs [Edit: Marijuana Majority’s Tom Angell says he was “proud to hold” those signs, but the Amendment 64 campaign people were the ones who made them.] Good for the getting the moderates on your side, but — does it work? What about painkillers?

Reason‘s Jacob Sullum has done a great job shedding light on those who get caught in the machinery of restrictions on painkillers. So has Huffington Post’s Radley Balko, who noted that fear of prescription drug abuse is not dissimilar to any other drug moral panic. From crack babies to bath salts, the thing about drug panics is that they tend to be overblown and they tend to ignore either the people in jail or the people who actually need the drug.

In fall of 2011, the LA Times breathlessly reported that drug overdoses killed more people than car wrecks (37,485 vs. 36,284) in 2009. Indeed, mixing of depressants is dangerous. Informing people of this is important. (Also, yay, fewer car wrecks!) But the answer to that danger, in state fashion, is to punish people in pain and frighten doctors into violating their oaths to help. Freaking out and demanding that people just do something, dammit, doesn’t hurt. (Nor does reporting that completely ignores the issue of people in pain who are not getting the help they need. As Sullum wrote in 2011:

There is an unavoidable tradeoff here between relieving the suffering of innocents and saving people from their own stupidity, and the morally correct choice should be obvious.

It isn’t.)

The Obama administration suggested that every state have computerized prescription drug monitoring programs. Currently 42 do. This sort of legislating is par for the course for Office of Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske’s faux-benevolent “third way” when it comes to drug policy. That is, we keep the drug war right on going, but don’t use such unseemly (accurate) terms as “war.”

As Reason‘s Mike Riggs has previously reported, Kerlikowske’s “nicer” policies still mean a life can be wrecked by possession of a single unprescribed painkiller, even when that individual escapes jail.

These monitoring programs don’t even appear to do much good in reducing overdoses, either. Though “a 2010 survey found that 73 percent of Kentucky law enforcement officers who used the prescription database called the tool ‘excellent’ for obtaining evidence.”

Pain is not quantifiable, and people build up a tolerance to opiates. So the very legitimate fear of Drug Enforcement Administration eyes on these databases makes doctors more afraid to give pain-relief seekers all that they want. This isn’t fair to doctors, since it forces them to choose between their livelihoods and their oaths to help people.  And it sure as hell isn’t fair to people who are suffering. (Today Riggs blogged this story, the headline: “Moments After Utah Man’s Wife Dies of Cancer, Cops Show Up to Confiscate Her Pain Pills“. It’s as bad as it sounds.)

The paraplegic Richard Paey is well-known case of near-life-ruin thanks to these restrictions. Paey, thankfully spent three years in prison for his “crime” of acquiring enough painkillers, instead of his original sentence of 25 years. But it doesn’t take a lot of pills, sometimes it takes two. @lakeline pointed me towards a story from last week the the death of the pregnant Jamie Lynn Russell. She died in jail after initially seeking help at a hospital due to severe abdominal pain:

Hospital staff reported Jamie wouldn’t cooperate, in too much pain to even lie down, so employees asked a Pauls Valley police officer to assist.

Unfortunately, when police found two prescription pills that didn’t belong to Jamie, police took her to jail for drug possession.

That’s where Jamie sat for less than two hours before being found unresponsive.

Oklahoma City KFOR reports that it was the hospital who released Russell and said she was medically fit to go to jail. Initial reports have already found that the jail staff were not negligent. The hospital staff have more blood on their hands, perhaps, since their purpose is to heal, not to follow every law.

Opiates are more dangerous than marijuana simply because you can overdose on them and die. When you mix them with alcohol you are risking a lot more than the spins. So when arguing for reduced restrictions on opiates, you don’t have the luxury of pointing to marijuana’s zero death toll. But this fight is just as essential as continued fighting for marijuana legalization, even apart from a moral objection to government deciding what substances an adult may ingest.

Fundamentally, when you give the government the power to control drug distribution  even in the kinder-sounding prescription-only way, you will always have stories like the ones above. And many, many more. Prohibition causes pain and suffering — it crushes freedom and it kills — but sometimes so does regulation.