Mehserle Guilty in Killing That Inflamed Oakland

We noted this travesty at the time it occurred, hope Oakland doesn’t explode into riots as result of the light punishment.

Purple Lotus Society - Lomo

A white Bay Area transit officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday by a Los Angeles jury in the shooting death of an unarmed black man on Jan. 1, 2009, ending a closely watched trial that percolated with racial tension and cries for peace in the city of Oakland, Calif., where the killing occurred.

The officer, Johannes Mehserle, 28, had been accused of a more serious charge, second-degree murder, in the death of Oscar Grant III, 22, butcher’s apprentice who was shot while lying face down on a platform after being removed from a Bay Area Rapid Transit train during a fight.

City officials were worried about a reprise of the 2009 riots that erupted in downtown Oakland, with crowds burning cars and smashing storefronts after Mr. Grant’s shooting, which was captured on cellphone video and widely disseminated on the Internet.

(click to continue reading Officer Guilty in Killing That Inflamed Oakland –


Green Taxes for Cannabis

Even if these numbers are optimistic (and nobody knows, really, until after the fact of legalization), the social costs cannot be ignored. Police resources, court resources, prison resources, all freed up.

Cat on a Hot Spring Lawn

faced with a $20 billion deficit, strained state services and regular legislative paralysis, voters in California are now set to consider a single-word solution to help ease some of the state’s money troubles: legalize.

On Wednesday, the California secretary of state certified a November vote on a ballot measure that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, a plan that advocates say could raise $1.4 billion and save precious law enforcement and prison resources.

Indeed, unlike previous efforts at legalization — including a failed 1972 measure in California — the 2010 campaign will not dwell on assertions of marijuana’s harmlessness or its social acceptance, but rather on cold cash.

“We need the tax money,” said Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, a trade school for marijuana growers, in Oakland, who backed the ballot measure’s successful petition drive. “Second, we need the tax savings on police and law enforcement, and have that law enforcement directed towards real crime.”

Supporters are hoping to raise $10 million to $20 million for the campaign, primarily on the Internet, with national groups planning to urge marijuana fans to contribute $4.20 at a time, a nod to 420, a popular shorthand for the drug.

The law would permit licensed retailers to sell up to one ounce at a time. Those sales would be a new source of sales tax revenue for the state.

[Click to continue reading Legal-Marijuana Advocates Focus on a New Green –]

If a Republican wins the governorship, this bill will not be enforced1, so that’s another reason to vote against Meg Whitman and/or Steve Poizner. The will of the voter only is important when it benefits policy makers.

Nar Hookah

And I bet a lot of people have a similar response to this one, by Shelley Kutilek:

Still, the idea of legal marijuana does not seem too far-fetched to people like Shelley Kutilek, a San Francisco resident, loyal church employee and registered California voter, who said she would vote “yes” in November.

“It’s no worse than alcohol,” said Ms. Kutilek, 30, an administrator at Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco. “Drunk people get really belligerent. I don’t know anybody who gets belligerent on marijuana. They just get chill

That echoes my own experience – I’ve seen plenty of angry drunks stumbling down the street, yelling at cars and what not, and never seen that sort of behavior with someone who just is smoking their way to bliss.

  1. that is, if it passes []

Mike Royko and Jerry Moonbeam Brown

“One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko” (Mike Royko)

Factoid I did not know, Mike Royko, one of the famed Billy Goat denizens, coined the long-lasting epithet for Jerry Brown.

For the uninitiated, ‘Governor Moonbeam’ became Mr. Brown’s intractable sobriquet, dating back to his days as governor between 1975 and 1983, when his state led the nation in pretty much everything — its economy, environmental awareness and, yes, class-A eccentrics.

The nickname was coined by Mike Royko, the famed Chicago columnist, who in 1976 said that Mr. Brown appeared to be attracting “the moonbeam vote,” which in Chicago political parlance meant young, idealistic and nontraditional.

The term had a nice California feel, and Mr. Royko eventually began applying it when he wrote about the Golden State’s young, idealistic and nontraditional chief executive. He found endless amusement — and sometimes outright agita — in California’s oddities, calling the state “the world’s largest outdoor mental asylum.”

“If it babbles and its eyeballs are glazed,” he noted in April 1979, “it probably comes from California.”

[Click to continue reading How Jerry Brown Became ‘Governor Moonbeam’ –]

Of course, Mike Royko eventually came to be a Moonbeam supporter, and hated that the nickname stuck:

All of which made Mr. Royko’s epiphany even more striking. It came in 1980, at the Democratic National Convention, where Mr. Royko said that the best speech had come from — you guessed it — Governor Moonbeam.

“I have to admit I gave him that unhappy label,” Mr. Royko wrote. “Because the more I see of Brown, the more I am convinced that he has been the only Democrat in this year’s politics who understands what this country will be up against.”

Colleen and Seth – Colfax 1971

Colleen and Seth - Colfax 1971
Colleen and Seth – Colfax 1971, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

My mother and me, circa 1971 (?), Colfax, California.
Slightly retouched in Photoshop.…


This is probably my favorite photo of my mother. Something about her expression here is just perfect. She isn’t smiling, exactly, nor quizzical.

Not sure exactly the provenance of this photo: think it was taken in Colfax, California, but don’t know where exactly, nor who took it.

The 1959 VW survived several more cross-country trips past this photo, and eventually became reused as the motor for a sawmill in Frostpocket1. Blue in this photo, later painted school bus yellow.

  1. if memory serves []

California Dreamin of Water

California is going to have to make some hard decisions about its water1 fairly soon. Their current model is just not sustainable. Doesn’t sound like Senator Feinstein’s plan is the solution, at least from where I sit2

A Screaming Comes Across the Sky

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who angered environmentalists, fishing groups and other Democratic lawmakers by proposing to divert more water to California’s farmers, said on Friday she was working to avoid controversial legislation.

Feinstein’s plan would ease Endangered Species Act restrictions to allow more water to be pumped out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta for growers in the state’s Central Valley.

Dramatic cutbacks in irrigation supplies this year alone from both California and federal water projects have idled about 23,000 farm workers and 300,000 acres of cropland in America’s No. 1 Farm state.

Feinstein’s proposal has quickly become a flashpoint in the state’s epic and long-running water wars as opponents say it could ultimately lead to the extinction of Sacramento River salmon and eliminate up to 23,000 jobs in the Pacific coast fishing industry.

[Click to continue reading Senator suggests truce in California’s water fight | Reuters ]

So divert water so that California agribusinesses get it to spray wastefully on their crops? Short term fix, of course, but what happens in two years? Maybe iceberg lettuce is not what should be grown in the first place, nor year-round tomatoes and canteloupes. Maybe food cannot be as cheap as it once was. Something has to change, or this water war will continue forever.

And if California cannot figure out what to do, there are precedents of worse to come:

Yemeni water trader Mohammed al-Tawwa runs his diesel pumps day and night, but gets less and less from his well in Sanaa, which experts say could become the world’s first capital city to run dry.

“My well is now 400 meters (1,300 feet) deep and I don’t think I can drill any deeper here,” said Tawwa, pointing to the meager flow into tanks that supply water trucks and companies.

From dawn, dozens of people with yellow jerricans collect water from a special canister Tawwa has set aside for the poor.

“Sometimes we don’t have any water for a whole week, sometimes for two days and then it stops again,” said Talal al-Bahr, who comes almost daily to supply his family of six.

The West frets that al Qaeda will exploit instability in Yemen to prepare new attacks like the failed December 25 bombing of a U.S. airliner, but this impoverished Arabian peninsula country faces a catastrophe that poses a far deadlier long-term threat.

Nature cannot recharge ground water to keep pace with demand from a population of 23 million expected to double in 20 years.

[Click to continue reading Yemen’s water crisis eclipses al Qaeda threat| Reuters]

  1. and other topics too []
  2. which is about a mile from one of the Great Lakes, a source of fresh water for many years to come. Full disclosure and all that []

Medical Marijuana in California Aspires to Go Commercial

Seems like good problems to have

Introduced as a Friend

LAKE FOREST, Calif. — Sellers of marijuana as a medicine here don’t fret about raids any more. They’ve stopped stressing over where to hide their stash or how to move it unseen.

Now their concerns involve the state Board of Equalization, which collects sales tax and requires a retailer ID number. Or city planning offices, which insist that staircases comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Then there is marketing strategy, which can mean paying to be a “featured dispensary” on a Web site for pot smokers.

After years in the shadows, medical marijuana in California is aspiring to crack the commercial mainstream.

“I want to do everything I can to run this as a legitimate business,” says Jan Werner, 55 years old, who invested in a pot store in a shopping mall after 36 years as a car salesman.

Some now are using traditional business practices like political lobbying and supply-chain consolidation. Others are seeking capital or offering investment banking for pot purveyors. In Oakland, a school offers courses such as “Cannabusiness 102” and calls itself Oaksterdam University, after the pot-friendly Dutch city. As shops proliferate, there are even signs the nascent industry could be heading for another familiar business phenomenon: the bubble.

As the business matures, ancillary ventures are springing up. In Oakland, OD Media manages advertising and branding for about a dozen pot clients. An Oakland lawyer, James Anthony, and three partners have started a firm called Harborside Management Associates to give dealers business advice. A pot activist named Richard Cowan has opened what he envisions as an investment bank for pot-related businesses, called General Marijuana.

Mr. Cowan is also chief financial officer of Cannabis Science Inc., which is trying to market a pot lozenge for nonsmokers. It was founded by Steve Kubby, a longtime medical-marijuana advocate who a decade ago was acquitted of a pot-growing charge but briefly jailed for having illegal mushrooms in his home. Mr. Kubby says there is “no more alternative culture” at the company, which went public in March and has hired a former pharmaceutical-industry scientist to try to win Food and Drug Administration approval for the lozenge.

[Click to continue reading Medical Marijuana in California Aspires to Go Commercial –]

[non-WSJ subscribers use this link]

and wherever there’s a confluence of money and politics, lobbyists cannot be far behind:

Lobby Horse

To defend their interests, some pot proprietors are hiring lobbyists. Messrs. Shofner and Werner pay consulting fees to Ryan Michaels, a political organizer with an expertise in med-pot compliance issues.

There are signs medical pot’s increasing business legitimacy is crowding the market. A 20-mile stretch of Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley now has close to 100 places to buy. “So many dispensaries have come along, the prices are dropping,” says one operator, Calvin Frye. Two years ago, his least expensive pot was about $60 for an eighth of an ounce. Now it is $45.

Across the country, a med-pot bill is working its way through New York’s state legislature. If it makes it, entrepreneurs are getting ready.

Larry Lodi, a 49-year-old Little League umpire from Long Island, spent two days at Oaksterdam University in May, learning the fine points of cultivation and distribution. Mr. Lodi envisions a business that would link the growers and the sellers of medical marijuana. “I want to be the middleman,” he says.

Reading Around on July 20th

Some additional reading July 20th from 09:53 to 19:30:

  • The Return of the Pay Wall | The Big Money – The summer of 2009 is a terrible time to start charging for what was free. …

    So is this really the best time to start charging for online news? No. The best time was back in 1994, when the Web made online publishing to the masses a snap. And now that newspapers are finally making the move, they're applying a 1994 solution to the 2009 Web. Today, online publishers are seeing more and more traffic coming through blogs, aggregators like Google News, and social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Ignoring them is even more perilous to a paper's image than it was two years ago, when the New York Times tore down its Times Select pay walls. The hypertext link that made the Web unique is even more powerful today, and pay walls that break those links send would-be readers a clear message: Don't bother.

  • – these things don't just blame themselves – Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in.. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.
    He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. …
    Now, I can understand why the police might think that a middle-aged black man was breaking into a home during lunchtime by trying to ram the front door with his shoulder, because it’s what many middle-aged black men do with their time, between Young and the Restless commercial breaks.
    … I’m sure that a significant number of people will read this and think that this is just a black man screaming racism because he handled a situation poorly, because a significant number of people like being dead fucking wrong.
  • The Return of the Pay Wall | The Big Money – The summer of 2009 is a terrible time to start charging for what was free. …

    So is this really the best time to start charging for online news? No. The best time was back in 1994, when the Web made online publishing to the masses a snap. And now that newspapers are finally making the move, they're applying a 1994 solution to the 2009 Web. Today, online publishers are seeing more and more traffic coming through blogs, aggregators like Google News, and social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Ignoring them is even more perilous to a paper's image than it was two years ago, when the New York Times tore down its Times Select pay walls. The hypertext link that made the Web unique is even more powerful today, and pay walls that break those links send would-be readers a clear message: Don't bother.

  • Hullabaloo – Wrecking Ball – Davis really had only bumped the fee back to its historic level: to 2% of a vehicle's value, rather than a recently enacted 0.65%.

    Schwarzenegger's canceling of the fee hike actually amounted to the single biggest spending increase of his reign. That's because all the revenue from the vehicle license fee had gone to local governments, and Schwarzenegger generously agreed to make up their losses by shipping them money from the state general fund.

    The annual drain on the state treasury was $6.3 billion until February. Then the governor and Legislature raised the fee to 1.15% of vehicle value, saving the state $1.7 billion.

  • Kennedy ’suicide ramp’ improvements to increase suicide rates | The Daily Blank – "According to an official Illinois Department of Transportation report, the notorious “suicide ramps” on Chicago’s downtown Kennedy Expressway will undergo much-needed improvements in order to bring the annual number of suicide deaths back up from what has been a startling decline in the past decade."

Intelligentsia coffee bar in Venice Beach

Awesome! I want to go here, especially since I’ve never been to Venice Beach.

Best Espresso Ever

This spring Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee & Teaplans to open a coffee bar the likes of which the world has never seen. The cafe, still under construction in Los Angeles’ Venice Beach, will feature five stations and five baristas who will personally attend to each customer who walks in.

“We want the role of the barista here to be like a sommelier or a great server at a restaurant,” says Intelligentsia CEO Doug Zell.

As Zell explains it, guests will be greeted at the door by a barista and taken to an individual station to talk about the kind of coffee experience they are looking for. The barista will help direct their choices from “beginning to the end. After they make the coffee they can discuss it with the guest or take them to the home brewing area and help explain some of the coffee or equipment for sale. They can also suggest pairings for the coffee.”

[From Intelligentsia plans a groundbreaking coffee bar in Venice Beach | The Stew – A taste of Chicago’s food, wine and dining scene]

Intelligentsia Coffee is the default coffee bean that I buy. Nearly always perfectly roasted, and fresh. Even better is an espresso pulled by an expert Intelligentsia barista. I wish there was a location closer to me.

Southern Cal is going to be thirsty

Ru-oh. The water wars are getting closer. Better make those visits to Southern California sooner than later.

Listen to the Ice

As signals of climate change begin to come into focus in the Sierra Nevada, its melting glaciers spell trouble in bold font. Not only are they in-your-face barometers of global warming, they also reflect what scientists are beginning to uncover: that the Sierra snowpack – the source of 65 percent of California’s water – is dwindling, too.

More of the Sierra’s precipitation is falling as rain instead of snow, studies show, and the snow that blankets the range in winter is running off earlier in the spring. And snow in the Sierra touches everything. Take it away and droughts deepen, ski areas go bust and fire seasons rage longer.

Some glaciers already have melted away, including the first Sierra glacier discovered in Yosemite by John Muir in 1871. Today, the remaining 100 or so are withering, including Lyell, the second-largest, which could be gone inside a century.

“All across the Sierra, glaciers are transitioning into ice patches. Ice patches are transitioning to snow fields. And snow fields are transitioning into bedrock,” said Greg Stock, a geologist with Yosemite National Park who joined Devine last month on an annual survey of the Lyell glacier.

While this is not the first time glaciers have receded across the Sierra Nevada – they last did so about 20,000 years ago – this meltdown is more ominous, Stock said, because scientists increasingly believe it is sparked not by natural forces but by rising carbon dioxide levels from the burning of fossil fuels.

“We have entered new terrain with what’s going on in the atmosphere,” he said. “We haven’t seen anything like this in tens of millions of years.”

[From Yosemite glacier on thin ice – Sacramento News – Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee]

(H/T Cooky Jill over at skippy’s place.)