Monday, December 8, 2014


 Eric Garner was a 44-year old black American, married with six children, living in New York, about 350 pounds and 6’4” tall. I am a 61-year-old white American, unmarried, no children, living in New Orleans, 200 lbs, 6’1” tall. Garner reportedly had a string of about 30 arrests for petty crimes, and I have no arrest record. Eric Garner is dead and I am alive; yet I am Eric Garner. And guess what: You are Eric Garner.

If that sounds confusing, just know that you and I are but one unlawful misstep away from an overzealous, ego-inflated law enforcement officer placing us in a chokehold and cutting off our air supply. Maybe our chokehold may come from smoking an illegal joint, or jaywalking on a busy city street, or carrying the wrong item in our luggage through airport security, or cutting in line outside of busy nightclub, or….you fill in the blank. After all, would our getting high, walking in the wrong place, packing a pocket knife in a suitcase or being over-anxious to get into a club be any worse than Garner selling untaxed loosies? If Officer Daniel Pantaleo, 29, could murder Eric Garner in broad daylight on a busy Staten Island street, couldn’t any unnamed, over-testosteroned 20-something who spent a few months in the police academy take me out just as easily? So, you see, I am Eric Garner and you…yes you are Eric Garner.

And yes, indeed I did just use the world murder. I have watched the tape of Eric Garner’s takedown over and over again, and what I witnessed was clearly Daniel Pantaleo murdering Eric Garner.
Eric Garner in a chokehold (Inset: Daniel Pantaleo)
About Dan Pantaleo: Here are a few juicy items we have come to find out about the young cop who clearly saw no value in the life of Eric Garner: At the beginning of this year the NYPD settled a civil rights suit against him, after he and another cop stopped a convicted drug felon and made him and his friend drop their pants on the street and be searched. The officers then took the two to the station and strip searched them again. Since they were apparently unlawfully stopped, the two sued and each was awarded $15,000. Charges were dismissed. Charges were also dismissed in a separate case against a Pantaleo arrestee where the citizen alleges Pantaleo stopped him for no reason and filed a police report that accused him of crimes that were never committed. That person’s suit is still pending.

All of these suits hover around thousands of dollars charged to the NYPD. But that’s chump change compared to the $75 million Garner’s family will reportedly ask for in their suit against New York City. If you ask me, Pantaleo is a rather pricey employee for the city to keep, but so far he is still employed. Two days after Garner’s murder, Pantaleo had to surrender his gun and his badge, but he’s still on desk duty. One wonders how his hair trigger impulses will play out in the office setting, rather than on the street.

More about Pantaleo: After he cut off air supply to Eric Garner, while Garner lay on the street, barely
EMS worker checks for Eric Garner's pulse. No resuscitation efforts were made.
alive, Pantaleo and his four fellow officers on the scene did nothing to try to offer medical assistance. For five full minutes. Long enough to die. During the fourth minute, EMS workers on the scene took Garner’s pulse, but did nothing to try to resuscitate him.

Reaction to Pantaleo’s power trip and ultimate murder of Eric Garner has been swift and widespread, including Mayor DiBlasio of New York, who says he now fears for the life of his bi-racial son. None other than Judge Andrew Napolitano, the senior judicial analyst for Fox News said there should have been an indictment for criminally negligent homicide.

When Pantaleo issued a statement apologizing for Garner’s murder, Garner’s widow had this to say: "Hell no! The time for remorse would have been when my husband was yelling to breathe. No, I don't accept his apology. No, I could care less about his condolences. He's still working. He's still getting a paycheck. He's still feeding his kids, when my husband is six feet under and I'm looking for a way to feed my kids now. No, I could care less about his condolences," she continued. "Who's going to play Santa Claus for my grandkids this year?”
Esaw Garner

I’m with Mrs. Garner. How could you not be? My greatest concern is the selection process for these young cops. First, every local and state police organization requires officer applicants to go through a psychological evaluation, but none of them make the details of the evaluations or the individual results available to the public. Just how deeply are we delving in to the psyches of these 20-something, over-aggressive males who are patrolling our cities? Are they being adequately tested for behavior traits such as impulse control? Are they being deeply questioned and investigated as to their beliefs about racial issues? What do the hiring agents at these agencies know about the applicants’ family and peer influences as it regards race? Why are there so many instances of police brutality and over-use of excessive force that go unpunished? Could there really be a citizen in NYC who believes Dan Pantaleo should be put back out on the streets of their city?

Think about that tonight and for many nights to come while you watch protests, demonstrations and even rioting in major cities coast to coast. The American public is speaking its collective mind about Eric Garner’s murder. That is because each of those individuals who braves the elements and spends his or her nights on the streets knows that they are all Eric Garner. We are all Eric Garner. Here is a clip of Mrs. Garner’s interview last Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Listen to her describe the disrespect with which the police treated her husband and her on a daily basis. Listen to the fear she lives with for her two young sons.

Esaw Garner goes through her days in America in 2014 in fear. That is not what this country is supposed to be about. All Dan Pantaleo accomplished when he brutally murdered Eric Garner was to destroy an American family and bring to the surface the escalating problem of police brutality and the street war between police and the citizens they are charged to protect. When immature, 20-somethings are released on the street to “enforce” the law, having little life experience and almost no worldly wisdom from which to draw, we are all in danger. Put a gun in their hands and we are in mortal danger. If they have a history of falsely arresting people as Pantaleo has, the danger is even greater. America is fighting back now, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of citizens taking to the streets each night, from Ferguson to Staten Island, from Berkeley to D.C., from Detroit to Dallas. Speak up. Be heard. Don’t wait until nightfall, or until one of us Eric Garners is murdered again, or until someone else has to speak for you. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Scary, powerful, intimidating, threatening, aggressive….these are some of the words used in recent days to describe Bill Cosby. Prior to the recent and increasingly pervasive accusations of rape, Cosby would likely have been described as “America’s Dad,” intelligent, funny, influential and beloved. But now that his accusers number in the teens, and now that their stories are strikingly similar, Cosby has become persona non-grata in entertainment circles and certainly an international disappointment. Could this be the same man who once charmed us with kids and pudding, who elevated sitcoms and made room for black families, who broke barrier after barrier simply with humor and pathos? Indeed it is. But he is also the same man who once said, “Civilization had too many rules for me, so I did my best to rewrite them."

Although we can’t know how valid the many rape claims are, the sheer number of women who have come forward bolsters the credibility of each, and for the past several days a new woman has emerged almost daily. While most of them do not seek money, they do seek an apology and accountability from Cosby. So far they have received neither. In fact, when an AP reporter interviewed Cosby about another topic, and then segued into questions about his accusers, Cosby cut him off with an air of superiority.  Watch:

Cosby’s non-communication about his accusers follows an NPR interview just a day earlier in which he would not speak at all when asked about the accusations. His attorney issued the requisite denial and refusal to acknowledge the alleged victims.

Here I feel compelled to point out that some of Cosby’s fellow national celebrities were readily sent to prison for sexual assault: Mike Tyson, 2Pac and Darren Sharper, to name a few. Others, like Ceelo Green, R. Kelly and Ben Roethlisberger were strongly suspected and accused of sexual assault but to date have not served any jail time. It’s almost cliché now to say that some men in positions of power tend to use it for sexual gratification.  We could say it speaks to the multi-layered psyche of a male animal. And we could say an otherwise good person may have a dark side. Or we could more accurately say, rape is rape.

The repetitive story that emerges from Cosby’s alleged victims is that he preyed on young women in or around the entertainment industry, that he routinely used Quaaludes to render them helpless, and that the victims woke up not quite sure of why they were unclothed, but sure they had been sexually assaulted. Here are a few thing we can be sure of: 1) Cosby could not have come by the Quaaludes   legally, so in addition to his alleged sex crimes, he may be guilty of procuring illegal drugs;
2) Where there is smoke, there is fire; not every one of these women can be lying about every single accusation. For many of them it is humiliating and demeaning to have to describe what happened to them; 3) Ultimately Cosby will indeed have to respond to the accusations. That’s how things work in contemporary society. The story will continue to grow via social and other media until Cosby either admits what he did, or completely discredits all of the women who have come forward. That would be quite a feat; and 4), Cosby’s career is not likely to rebound. NBC, Netflix and TVLand have already 86’d him from the airwaves. Even Cosby is not powerful enough to overcome such giant corporate entities.

While it is true that none of us were there to witness any of Cosby’s alleged crimes, we can draw some conclusive questions that need to be addressed.  As mentioned above, where did he get the Quaaludes and why was he always in possession of them when these “opportunities” presented themselves? Who is and/or was complicit in keeping Cosby’s veil of secrecy about these alleged sexual acts? It is not conceivable that no one in Cosby’s inner circle knew what he was doing.

When one has enjoyed as much success and as many accolades as Cosby, 77, one might tend to have an inflated view of himself. But the fact is that Cosby is from another era, when sometimes men could indeed get by with this type of thing. Before the Internet, before social media, before widespread obsession with pop culture and celebrities, and before his alleged victims came forward with these tales, Cosby might have pulled it off.  After all, most of these alleged incidents happened decades ago, and only now when privacy is almost a distant memory and male dominance is not what it was back then, Cosby is  the deer in the proverbial headlights.

Because of a little something we have in America called the “statute of limitations,” Cosby has not been charged with a crime.  Prison is not a likely outcome here. But when one has had the intense and long-lasting fame that he has enjoyed, perhaps the loss of public respect and the loss of career is far worse than incarceration. In fact, perhaps it is an incarceration of sorts. Since there does not seem to be any type of judicial justice forthcoming,
Cosby’s losses at such an advanced age may be considered a type of justice. Certainly, for those women who may have been harmed by Cosby, it is not the type of justice they desire. The bigger picture for our society, however, is that the statute of limitations should be revisited. Why is it that one American can commit a crime against another American, and because a certain period of time has passed, the victim cannot seek justice?

The takeaway from this story is this: We have somehow elevated certain human beings to untouchable status. We, all of us, have enabled entertainers and star athletes to bring forth their worst selves, at our own expense.  Had O.J. Simpson been O.J. Jones, do we not believe he would have been found guilty of his wife’s murder? Had Bill Cosby been a tire salesman at Sears, would he have been able to overpower and use women as he did?
In addition to revisiting the concept of the statute of limitations, perhaps we should revisit our own ongoing obsession with celebrities. Fame does not and should not equal exemption from prosecution for crimes for which the rest of us must be accountable. Money and power should not serve as manipulators of the American justice system. And Cosby? Well, people come in layers, as they say, and as the layers of Cosby’s character area peeled away, our disappointment in him is really of our own making. He was just a man, like any other, and just as easily swayed by his own ego.  Surely he knows that now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Possibly the greatest visual irony I have ever seen happened the night the Ferguson Grand Jury’s decision was announced. It was that split screen on TV, one side featuring President Obama addressing the nation in his appeal for peaceful protest, and the other side a live shot of Ferguson, MO erupting in flames and violence. Obama read these words from Michael Brown’s father: “"After the grand jury’s decision, we are asking for four-and-a-half minutes of silence to remember why we lift our voices. We are not here to be violent. We are here in memory of our son." As he read those words we witnessed a scene of a police car being smashed and set on fire in the streets of Ferguson.

My initial reaction was to draw a comparison between what I was witnessing in St. Louis, and what happened in cities nationwide in 1968, the night Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. One could argue we are as racially divided right now as we ever were in this country. Some might go so far as to say we are increasingly divided. Almost a half century after the end of the Civil Rights Movement, racially-based strife has once again caused flames in the night in major American cities.  

Demonstrators in New York City
When protestors gathered in Philadelphia and New York (left), it was clear that the East coast was standing in solidarity with Ferguson. On the opposite coast, protestors in L.A. and Oakland gathered at the same time, while the fires spread further through Ferguson, and crowds thickened, even in almost freezing temperatures. Earlier widespread hopes that the protestors would not appear in large numbers in Ferguson’s frigid night were dashed when massive looting happened and even gunshots were fired in the direction of the police.

The next morning marchers peacefully demonstrated in front of the courthouse in Clayton, MO, near Ferguson. As I drove to work here in New Orleans I saw about 200 black citizens lined up on a major street ready to march. The important thing to remember, in my opinion, is that the demonstrators in various cities are not marching or protesting only the killing of Michael Brown. They are making a statement about the ongoing racial inequities in our country. They are lifting their voices and offering their physical presence to question why Michael Brown’s body was allowed to remain on the steamy hot Ferguson pavement for four hours before anyone made an effort to move him. They are trying to bring awareness to the inexplicable fact that Ferguson’s police force is made up of 50 officers, but only three are black. And in a larger sense the protests have everything to do with abuse of power by law enforcement officers.

Darren Wilson
The journalist in me is trying very hard to remain objective about what is transpiring right now in city streets coast to coast. As such, I will never know why Michael Brown stole a box of cigars and allegedly punched a cop. But I will also never understand why Officer Darren Wilson, a trained marksman, saw fit to shoot so many times at Brown, and why when he did shoot him he was not more careful to avoid a lethal shot. If you shoot somebody in the lower part of the body, they are likely to live. If you shoot in the head, they are not. The one question that has been asked more than any other in the Michael Brown killing is, why didn’t Wilson wound Brown to subdue him, rather than shooting to kill?

It is not the first time this question has been asked. In 2006, David Paterson, then a NY state senator from Harlem, and later Mayor of New York City, tried to introduce a “shoot to wound” bill in the state legislature. The aim of his bill was to require police officers to use minimal force to subdue aggressors. Stipulated in that bill was a requirement for officers who used excessive force that resulted in a suspect’s death to be charged with felony manslaughter. There was such a vociferous outcry from law enforcement that Paterson was forced to withdraw the bill. Other such bills have been introduced in other parts of the country, to no avail. 

Law enforcement officials hold that when a potentially dangerous interaction is happening between a perpetrator and a police officer, it often happens in seconds, causing the officer to use his or her training to react quickly to neutralize the threat. That seems to be what happened in the early stages of the Brown/Wilson interaction. Left open to debate is why Wilson fired more shots at Brown after the initial wounding. The Grand Jury, in refusing to indict Wilson, apparently found evidence to support Wilson’s decision to keep firing. But to its credit, based on inconsistencies in Grand Jury testimony, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that their investigation is still open and ongoing. 

The other element of the Ferguson rioting that offends me as a journalist is the manner in which the rioting was covered by media. CNN saw fit to keeps its reporters’ boots on the ground, even as gunfire was close by and even as some of them were unable to speak after being overcome by teargas.
CNN's Sara Snider hit by a rock while reporting from Ferguson, MO
Why does the company not value the safety of its employees over a street level commentary? Second, it is clear the reporters from MSNBC, FOX and CNN were actually chasing the story. By that I mean that even though rioting was not taking place in the entire city of Ferguson, the reporters were actively pursuing every outbreak of violence, no matter how minor, to seemingly sensationalize the coverage. Oh, and about that split screen I mentioned earlier: Why? The President of the United States was speaking to the citizens, encouraging peaceful protest over violence, but CNN saw fit to show the fires, looting and rioting at the same time. Why?

The media will ultimately move on to the “next big story,” but do not expect the issues that have been raised after Brown’s death to go away. They will not.  The massive coverage will, however, fade away. Does anybody remember the round the clock coverage of the plane that disappeared a few months ago?  The Adrian Peterson coverage? The NFL concussion coverage? Ebola? Boko Haram? All of these stories are ongoing, but get very little coverage. Pretty soon the words “Cosby” and “Ferguson” will join their ranks.

Eric Garner being killed by NYPD illegal chokehold
Right now we are left with far more questions than answers about Ferguson. So here is a little prediction for you: The issues raised via Michael Brown’s death are probably going to stay in the headlines a bit longer than stories usually do. Here's why: Do you remember the case of Eric Garner in NY, the man who was selling cigarettes illegally and was later killed by a NYPD officer using an illegal chokehold? The Grand Jury in that case is about to announce its decision as to whether the cop should be prosecuted. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if the Grand Jury says no to prosecution, all hell will break out in the streets of New York City. And if we thought Ferguson erupted, chances are New York will make Ferguson look like child’s play. And that is the next big story. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Just think: Sayreville, NJ is a borough that dates back to the beginnings of this country, but until last week you may never have heard of it. Even though it was home to luminaries like rocker Jon Bon Jovi and actors Dule Hill (The West Wing) and Greg Evigan (My Two Dads), nothing exceptional calls attention to this town of under 50,000 residents. We know it is a majority Democratic town that strongly supported Barack Obama, but voted mostly for Chris Christie for Governor.  We now know that football is something of an obsession in Sayreville, even though the Friday night lights are now dimmed indefinitely.

That’s because we also now know that several high school football players allegedly sexually assaulted other students on school property.  How to put this delicately: Let’s just say the alleged perpetrators digitally penetrated the alleged victims. High school students. In the locker room.

Seven of the accused have now been charged in the attacks.  Three of them face aggravated sexual assault, criminal restraint and hazing charges. The other four are charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact. All have been suspended from school, and the Sayreville Superintendent, Richard Labbe, has publicly stated that he is not sure if the football program will be reinstated. The local prosecutor is reportedly weighing options as to whether he will attempt to try the seven boys as adults.

Here is what I know for sure, and I do not have to be familiar with Sayreville to state this: These boys knew exactly what they were doing. Their age has nothing to do with it. When a group of people band together to restrain another person so that they can use their fingers to penetrate the victim’s body, everyone involved knows that what they are doing is wrong.
Sayreville's longtime coach, George Najjar    
Here is what else I know: When that same group of people commits the act repeatedly, there is clear intent to harm the victims. Intent to harm and commission of sex crimes are very adult behaviors.  Reportedly, there were four separate incidents in the Sayreville locker room, and authorities now want to know who else on the team witnessed the attacks on the younger players. The perpetrators should be imprisoned. According to New Jersey law, some of the seven alleged rapists could face up to 20 years in prison.

If this were an isolated incident, it would certainly be horrific enough, but the fact is that similar crimes have happened in many places in this country, perpetrated by many teenage boys. Last May, for example, three high school soccer players were convicted of crimes much like the Sayreville incident. The harshest sentence imposed was three months in a juvenile detention camp. The other two boys got probation.  In Greenfield, Iowa last April, members of the high school wrestling team allegedly punished a younger wrestler for missing practice by restraining him and penetrating him with a jump rope handle.  CBS New York reported in March that three high school track team members were accused of violently attacking another student athlete by hitting his genitals with a bottle and then penetrating him through his clothing with an object. In August, 2013, five high school student athletes in a suburb of Chicago were charged with restraining and digitally penetrating a fellow high school team member.  Other similar incidents have been reported at U.S. high schools, but the pattern is clear.

Also clear is the reluctance on the part of prosecutors to charge the teens as adults. My guess is that had said prosecutors been restrained and anally penetrated in a locker room, had they experienced the terror of a sex crime, the humiliation of being so victimized, perhaps they would not be so quick to afford these boys the light, sometimes non-existent sentences they receive. These sex crimes are not rough housing on the school playground, or bullying in the high school cafeteria. They are sex crimes. In our society, sex crimes are severely punishable. They are grownup transgressions that merit jury trials and imprisonment.

Sayreville vigil for alleged rape victims
Unlike high schoolers of the past, today’s teens have full access to the same reading materials, video presentations and other informational sources as adults have. Today’s 16 and 17-year-olds are a lot savvier about the dark sides of society than teens in the past. Everybody is wired or wireless and everybody has free entre into the realm of adult-oriented information.  Increased awareness at a younger age may not be society’s first choice, but it is the reality of our tech-flooded world. 

Maybe overexposure, or too much information too soon in life has contributed to juveniles committing very adult crimes. Who knows. But let’s not blame parents, schools, television, movies, music and the Internet. It almost isn’t necessary to figure out who to blame for 16-year-olds perpetrating heinous sex crimes against their peers. What is necessary is to make it stop. In my mind, that happens when juveniles start seeing other juveniles locked up for a long time.

And might it also be time to take football down from the pedestal we have put it on? Word is that many, many residents of Sayreville are livid that the superintendent of schools cancelled the football season. It appears the some townspeople, while not unsympathetic to the juvenile victims of the sex crimes, are far more passionate when they talk about their outrage at the
season being prematurely terminated. What is going on that the game of football has become of greater import than the well being of their own children? It is largely varsity athletes that commit these crimes in high schools. What is the message being sent to their peers when these varsity rapists get away with it?

Bottom line: In 2010, almost 10,000 minors were arrested for sex offenses, including rape, according to a report from the FBI. Their punishments and jail sentences varied from state to state, but it is unlikely that many or any of them are still in jail today. The numbers are telling us the story. All we have to do is listen, and act. Keywords: ZERO TOLERANCE.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


In Part One, we took a look at potential candidates Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Herein we look at three conservatives and one wild card liberal who swears she is not running. Uh-huh:

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is perhaps the most extreme character in this saga. He enters with one glaring disadvantage; he looks a lot like the infamous late Joseph McCarthy. But that may be the least of his problems. Cruz, who was educated at Princeton and Harvard, is considered even by some of his naysayers as brilliant. But his brilliance does not seem to enlighten him as to the rights of all Americans: He opposes all things gay; he was staunchly against renewing the Violence Against Women Act; has not shown much regard for the environment; sees very little reason to impose gun control on Americans, in any way; supports employers’ right to deny insuring birth control.  Cruz is an extremist, to be sure. Remember when he threatened to shut down the U.S. government unless Congress defunded Obamacare? Oh, and then there was that time that Cruz proclaimed that Saturday Night Live executive producer "Lorne Michaels could be putin jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician."
Ted Cruz
That’s when he twisted a proposed Democratic-backed campaign finance amendment so that it would infringe on artists’ First Amendment rights.  Good times, huh? Is Ted Cruz dangerous? You be the judge.
PROS: First Cuban or Latino to win the Senate position he holds; One of only three Latinos in the Senate, likely to garner a huge chunk of the Hispanic vote; Knows the political game and knows Washington, having served in the Bush administration; has some appeal to extreme right wing Republicans.
CONS: Born in Canada, is he actually eligible to run for President of the U.S.? ; not in good favor with traditional Republicans; comes off as more of a dictator than an elected legislator; has been compared to infamous dictators like Hitler; Americans are not known to elected bad boys or extremist rebels to be leader of the free world.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), as far back as May, said publicly that he does feel he is ready to be President. Here’s my take on that: Anybody who’s relatively young and relatively new to the political game, who has to actually state that he is ready to be President, is going to have a tough time convincing the electorate.
Marco Rubio
Rubio, 43, may run, but if he does, it will probably be just for the national exposure and to set the stage for a future run. He probably needs to convince Republican stalwarts that he is the future hope of the party, and that will take some doing when many he must convince are, shall we say, in the Autumn of their days. He is pro-life, supports state’s rights to decide on marriage equality; voted no on re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act; reportedly has a concealed weapon permit, but does not carry a gun; believes that children of illegal immigrants should be afforded state tuition rates; supported a $2.3 billion cut to Florida public education. Oops.
PROS: Youth, vitality, personal appeal; ethnicity; willing to take legislative risks even if it means alienating some more extreme members of his own party.
CONS: Youth; ethnicity; inexperience. Probably lacks the necessary gravitas to be President.

So far, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is the only potential 2016 presidential candidate to visit Ferguson, MO in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown. While that speaks well for him, it may just be that he is already courting the black vote.  Good luck with that, Rand. He uses every opportunity to bash Hillary Clinton, so evidently he feels this is going to be a Paul/Clinton race. Is he a Tea Party guy or a libertarian? That depends on when you listen to his rhetoric. Paul is adamantly pro-life; says states should decide on marriage equality, but believes redefining marriage is a threat to society; opposes anything that gets in the way of the right to bear arms; believes raising the retirement age would alleviate the social security shortage issue; voted no on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. Shortly after he became
Rand Paul
a senator, he proposed eliminating foreign aid to all countries. Seriously. After he was roundly bashed about that, he revised the proposal, which went nowhere. Rand Paul is an enigma of sorts, in that he doesn’t tow the line for any particular party, and he does very little to ingratiate himself to his colleagues. Still, there are those that said he could be a formidable opponent.
PROS:  Appeals to those who support individual liberties; Works hard to spread his ideology coast to coast; has risen quickly in the GOP ranks;
CONS: Too many grey areas in his stands on critical issues; probably too laissez-fare for many voters regarding government controls; not exactly a media darling already; has made a number of anti-war statements that make him come off as an isolationist; stated the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unreasonably infringed on private businesses’ rights; as with Cruz, Ameicans are not prone to electing extremists.

Despite one denial after another after another, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is the subject of one of the most aggressive presidential drafts in recent memory.  Ready For Warren is a political action committee that is feverishly raising funds to pay for Warren’s presidential bid. What they will do with all of that cash once Warren truly doesn’t run is anybody’s guess. The Boston Globe even reported that Warren had her lawyer send a letter to the Federal Election Committee disavowing any relationship between her and Ready For Warren. Despite
Elizabeth Warren
her protests to the contrary. Warren could still change her mind. And what if she did? She’s an extreme liberal who adamantly supports abortion rights, thinks churches should provide birth control, wants the minimum wage raised to $10.10 by 2016, wants to end tax breaks for rich people, pushes for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and need I go on? She’s a left-wing American’s dreamboat. Except for weed, that is. She strongly opposes marijuana legalization.
PROS:  Provides Hillary-haters a viable alternative; relative newcomer to Washington, not tainted or jaded by political quagmire; forthright, determined demeanor.
CONS: Inexperience with the Washington insiders; Conservatives despise her and many are likely to launch hostile campaigns to discredit her.

Yes, yes I know I left out people like Joe Biden and maybe a few others. All in good time. Just be thankful Rick Santorum is not on the list. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


After witnessing the prolonged political and public flogging of George W. Bush and Barack Obama for the past decade, one wonders why any sane American would want to be President. But a select few actually do aspire to the office, and right now the foundations of several campaigns are being built, as each and every potential candidate denies he or she is running. Adamant denials, evasive answers to reporters’ questions, comical teases on late night talk shows – these are the signature moves of candidates who would rather lie to the electorate as long as possible, just so they don’t have to carry the weighty responsibility of labeling themselves candidates. So, who are this year’s liars? Who will don the mandatory navy suits or fashionless corporate ensembles on the debate stage lineup in 2016?  Who’s running for President in 2016? Let’s review:

MITT ROMNEY: Roundly defeated last time, and perhaps not the most gracious loser, Romney said as recently as last week that he is not running. He lost the nomination in 2008 to John McCain, and he lost the general election in 2012 to Obama. How much rejection can one guy take, huh? If you’re a guy with an ego that has been fed for decades by titles such as President and CEO of the 2002 Olympic Organizing Committee, and Governor of Massachusetts (2003-2007), rejection may be interpreted as a mere blip on the radar screen. Romney, however, is reported by Bloomberg to have attended a power-gathering of Republican party donors at the $75 million Manhattan duplex of fat cat Republican and NY Jets owner Woody Johnson. What was Romney doing there? And Bloomberg reveals he had a hush-hush tete-a-tete with billionaire Rupert Murdoch.  Hmmmm….whatever could they have been discussing?
PROS:  Political animal, knows how to walk the walk with the big boys and girls; has been through the campaign rigors more than once and proved he has the stamina; many Republicans with big money feel comfortable supporting his aspirations; looks like a matinee idol – come on, you know it’s true.
CONS: Political animal, knows how to walk the walk with the big boys and girls; has been through the campaign rigors more than once and proved he has the stamina; sore loser, who has made a number of snarky comments about Obama since his 2012 defeat; may never, ever, ever live down his infamous 47%comment.   

HILLARY CLINTON:  Speaking of billionaires, Business Insider reports that none other than Warren Buffett said recently, “Hillary is going to run. Hillary is going to win. I will bet money on it, I don't do that easily." One thing you can say for Hillary: she’s got chutzpah and she has staying power. Most interesting about her play for the 2012 nomination was that people were not really yammering about the fact that she is a woman. Up until then the big deal was whether we should or should not elect a female, but when she ran that was not the main topic anymore. Clinton is predictably coy about her intentions for 2016, but hey, it’s more than two years away. Still, in September Hillary and Bill Clinton journeyed to Iowa – yes, Iowa.  When asked if she is running, she said, “Well it is true, I am thinking about it.” Translation: “Yes, I’m running.”
PROS:  The Clinton rock star aura is alive and well; she has a global perspective now that many of her would-be opponents do not have, simply because they have not had the opportunity to interact with world leaders across the globe; already knows her way around the presidency; if you’re a Bill Clinton fan, you’d like it that he would be her co-president (come on, let’s be real here).
CONS: Hillary Clinton is without question, a polarizing figure in America. People love her or they hate her; In 2016 she will be 68 years old. Is it a good job to take on when you’re going to be in your 70s any minute?;  She made some questionable moves as Secretary of State. Benghazi looms large over her.

CHRIS CHRISTIE: It may just be that Chris Christie has good timing. Despite his multiple missteps as Governor of New Jersey, he comes across as an everyman, which has wide appeal to voters. He’s had much-publicized struggles with his weight; he’s married to a regular woman, not a glamour queen or fashion plate. During Hurricane Sandy he showed a willingness to reach across the aisle to collaborate on restoring his state; in fact he boldly and effusively praised Obama’s efforts at that time, which was a risky public move when you’re trying to gain Republican support for a presidential run. Christie publicly stated that he is considering a run, and that he would announce his intentions by the end of this year.
PROS:  Billionaire founder of Home Depot Kenneth Langone has publicly stated he thinks Christie is the man to beat in 2016,. And Langone is more than happy to help bankroll part of the effort; Since 2013 he has been chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
CONS:  Bridgegate. Enough said; by October, Christie’s approval rating in New Jersey was at its lowest level in three years, 49 percent; in September, Standard and Poor downgraded New Jersey’s credit rating, the eighth downgrade since Christie took office. That does not bode well for the potential leader of the free world at a moment when China just overtook the U.S. as the world’s largest economy.

JEB BUSH: #Dynasty; #3sacharm?; #whatwouldGeorgesay? Are we ready for another Bush White House? The buzz was always that matriarch Barbara Bush, 89, opposed the idea of Jeb being president. But reportedly she has softened to the idea. So, that, coupled with the ever-present macho Bushboy bloodline would seem to portend another Bush candidacy.  But even though he is highly regarded in Florida, the rest of us do not exactly know where he stands on a number of other hot issues.  The thing is that we voters only know three things about him: 1) Florida seems to really like him – a lot. 2) He has some pretty moderate views on immigration; and 3) He’s big on education and has reportedly made remarkable progress in upgrading public schools in Florida.
Pros: Name recognition – internationally; national reputation as a success in his home state of Florida; he his married to a Mexican-American woman and has done very well with Hispanic voters. Reminder: Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S.
Cons: Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba, is known to be intensely private and one who avoids the spotlight—not a characteristic that fits well with the expectations of a contemporary first lady; the Bush name could actually work against him since it brings back murky memories of  George W.'s last term.
In Part 2, we’ll take a look at three potential candidates who could be described as…ahem…a bit more extreme in their views on certain issues, and that’s putting it mildly. Next time we’ll look at Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Hey, if nothing else, it’s going to be a colorful couple of years in the wannabe presidential arena. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Picture this:  You’re 19 years old, living in Texas, and you decide on a lark to make some pot brownies. Then you decide to spice up the recipe a bit with some hash oil. You sell the brownies to other teens for $25. Stupid? Yes. Danger to society? Probably not. But in Texas, where some of the anti-drug laws are stiffer than almost anywhere else in the nation, Jacob Lavoro’s misguided baking and sales expedition could have landed him in jail – for the rest of his natural life. Fortunately, prosecutors saw their way to reason and reduced the charges at the last minute, but Lavoro may still do some jail time. The trial date is set for December, at which time he still faces the possibility of two to 20 years in prison.

Lavoro’s case has further ignited the debate about marijuana laws in this country, but anybody who thinks this national conversation is something new need only harken back to 1948, when matinee idol Robert Mitchum was busted for smoking at a party in Laurel Canyon, CA. Mitchum served two months at a prison farm (whatever that is) before resuming his career. At the time of his arrest, because the anti-drug movement was so big in Los Angeles, Mitchum’s plight was highly publicized, to the point that he thought his career would hit the skids. He was quoted as saying, “Well, this is the
bitter end of everything—my career, my marriage, everything." It was not, but in those days, his assumption made sense.

Robert Mitchum
What many people do not know is that as far back as the late 19th century, marijuana became a popular ingredient in many medicinal products and was sold openly in public pharmacies. If you want to know the evolution of anti-marijuana laws, click here.

By the 1960s marijuana was a full-fledged counter-culture staple. The “Hippie” movement of the late sixties, coupled with the “free love” trend among young people, spurred sales of marijuana to astronomical numbers theretofore unseen. One might posit that the introduction of the birth control pill begat the sexual revolution, and the addition of marijuana to the sexual experience significantly enhanced everything. That “underground” image that marijuana had for much of the 20th century has not abated much. But here we are in 2014, and 23 states have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes, and two states, Colorado and Washington have fully legalized its use for anybody.

Last year, in a piece I wrote for Discovery News I pointed out that in many parts of the world, marijuana is not a big deal. In Western Europe, South America and India, they’re looking at the U.S. and shaking their collective heads at what a brouhaha we’re making about smoking pot.  But last year, when then-Attorney General Eric Holder and CNN medical expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta both publicly came out in support of marijuana use, the tide of public opinion slightly changed. Results of a Gallup poll released late last year indicated that 58 percent of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana.  Among respondents aged 18 – 29, that figure rose to 67 percent. The most interesting finding of that poll was that support for legalization had jumped a full 10 percent from just one year earlier.

I am from a generation that counted getting high among its routine activities. I went to college with kids who were high in class. I lived with a roommate who smoked first thing in the morning. I smoked and smoked and I’m still standing and functioning rather well. The vast majority of us did not move on to cocaine or heroin or any of the other life-threating drugs
that are often the subject of anti-marijuana activists worries. Is marijuana a gateway drug to something really, really bad? I think not.

In preparation for the Discovery News piece, I spoke with Nora Valkow, M.D., the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. Valkow is against legalization.

“Studies show that 9 percent of those exposed to marijuana will become addicted,” Valkow said. “If you are less than 17 or 18 years old, that goes up to 16 percent.”

Even for the majority of teens who do not become addicted, Valkow said there are additional known health risks.

“My main concern with marijuana is the potential detrimental effects it can have on the developing human brain,” she said. “Exposure in adolescence can ultimately affect cognitive performance, mood and motivation and drive. Marijuana can also have adverse effects on adults. If you are taking it with a high content of THC it can make you psychotic.”

I tend to agree with Valkow about adolescents smoking pot. I think there should be an age restriction placed on the purchase and use of marijuana. I certainly do not want to see a group of middle school kids gathering in the schoolyard  having a group bong experience. There needs to be reasonable caution built into marijuana laws. We are a paternalistic society, so that reasonable caution would
certainly extend itself to young people who Valkow rightfully said are not developed enough yet to risk compromise to their cognitive abilities.

To those who are so vocal about their moral misgivings about marijuana, I’d like to know why they feel comfortable with the overabundance of sugar that enters the majority of Americans’ bodies. I’d like to know why they feel accepting of the abundance of cholesterol in our diet. And why, oh why, do they so welcome the inordinate amounts of sodium we consume? I could point out the obvious, that cigarettes are still legal in the U.S., when we have had full information about the fatal outcomes of lifelong smoking, for decades.

I would further point out that the big pharmacy industry in America has somehow slid statin drugs into legality, even though they have been proven to have serious side effects that even the FDA warns against: liver damage, memory loss and confusion, type 2 diabetes, and muscle weakness. Why?

The FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report for 2012 revealed that upwards of 750,000 Americans were arrested that year for marijuana law violations. The Drug Policy Alliance reports that of total arrests for marijuana law violations, more than 87 percent were for simple possession, not sale or manufacture. There are more arrests for marijuana possession every year than for all violent crimes combined. According to an ACLU report from last year, black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable usage rates. Furthermore, in counties with the worst disparities, blacks were as much as 30 times more likely to be arrested.

Just like the good folks at ACLU, I support states to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana as a consumer product. I support the right of American citizens to found and operate businesses built around marijuana sales and use. I support the right of our citizens to peacefully and without government intervention, smoke marijuana in their own homes at any time. I also support the formation of trade organizations like the National Cannabis Industry Association to nurture marijuana-related businesses that will significantly enhance our national coffers and advance the interests of freedom of choice in America. In the end, I believe legalization is not so much about money or morals or a great high or anything other than that freedom of choice.

Tonight when you get home from work, when you take a couple of hits from your marijuana pipe, consider this: If you live in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Florida or Arizona, your state has the harshest marijuana laws in the country. If you want to know the penalties for marijuana possession and use in your state, click here.

As usual, I am encouraging you to speak up if you want to see changes in the law. Here’s how: Email your senators. Find their email addresses here.
Email your representatives in Congress. Find their email addresses here.
Email your governor. Find the email address here.

Just as you should speak up for your freedom of choice regarding marijuana, you already have the freedom to be heard.  I say lift every voice.