Late Night: Teacher in Trouble–Fight for Your Rights (to Party)

Golly Mr. Dryden, you’re my favorite teacher!

John Dryden, a high school teacher in Batavia, Illinois is in hot water for teaching his students about their rights, and for putting that lesson into action by informing students of their Fifth Amendment rights in connection with a survey asking about illegal drug use. The survey was ostensibly aimed at assessing the needs of students at Batavia High School except it asked about illegal drug use and students’ names were on each form! What’s a cool teacher to do?

Dryden, who had just finished teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights, worried that students might feel obliged to incriminate themselves—an especially ticklish situation given the police officer stationed at the school. Since there was no time to confer with administrators, he says, he decided to tell his students that they did not have to complete the forms if doing so involved admitting illegal behavior.

He facing disciplinary action and

The Batavia Daily Herald reports that “Dryden faces having a ‘letter of remedy’ placed in his employment file,” which “could have consequences up to dismissal.” Dryden’s supporters are collecting signatures on a petition asking the board to refrain from disciplining him.

La Figa Holiday Gift Guide: Celebrate Krampus with Community-Focused and Socially Conscious-Themed Gifts

‘Tis the season. I have friends who make huge batches of fudge and give that out as gifts, and other friends who flavor and then bottle vinegars and oils. I have friends who can create coasters and potholders out of scrap fabric, knit lingerie, paint flower pots, découpage, draw, paint, bead, and generally out-arts-and-crafts me with one arm in a cast, which is why I shop very seriously with them, as well as looking for gifts that are socially responsible. (I don’t recommend hand knit bras, btw; they are itchy, lumpy, and offer no support, but um, it was the thought that counted).

Gifts should reflect the giver’s awareness of recipient, and carry a bit of the giver’s personality. Practical, thoughtful, and thought-provoking  are also important attributes. And because this is Firedoglake, a healthy dose of social consciousness never hurts.

Top of my list: FDL’s Free Bradley Manning t-shirt (there’s also an awesome sweatshirt). I ordered one for a friend as a Thanksgiving  gift, and he loved it, and I have one myself. The cotton is soft, the design is super cool, and you’re helping to support Manning’s trial coverage and activism.

Want to give a group gift, say for the whole family or your office? Occupy Sandy desperately needs Tyvek suits to protect those who are cleaning up mold damage in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Or consider supplying Occupy with the FDL Occupy Supply items. You can tell your peeps that instead of laying out for whole bunch of made-in-China crud that will end up gathering dust or getting regifted, you’ve made sure that an Occupy group is warm and cared for with American-made gifts.  And since usually  your family gives you socks and scarves, why not pay that forward and give socks and warm blankets to Occupy! Besides, weren’t your stodgy aunts and cousins thrilled last year when you gave a toilet in their name via Oxfam?

A Firedoglake Just Say Now shirt is perfect for your “states’ rights” libertarian relative–and for the fundamentalist Christian too, because after all, Pat Roberson did come out in favor of the legalization of marijuana, saying:

I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.

(And of course, Firedoglake memberships make great gifts as does a donation to Planned Parenthood. Or to your local library!)

This holiday season, along with their offerings like Lick It Softly (a blend of  peppermint and vanilla) and Krampus 2012 (red musk and black leather), niche perfumers Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has special, limited edition blends to raise funds in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Based on a guide to the seraglios of New York City published in 1870, The Gentleman’s Directory’s “Frank Burns” and “Miss Addie” are two distinct scents designed to recall a forgotten age of forbidden lust:

As you pass down Houston street, faro banks abound, till we reach an unpretending red brick building No. 25, kept by Frank Burns, known as the “Judge and Jury”. This is a great resort for the sportsmen both of this and the other country. Everything here is conducted in a respectable and orderly manner.

Bay rum, polished oak, exquisite pipe and cigar tobaccos, and a splash of bourbon.

The next house, No. 55, is kept by Miss Addie Blashfield, the dashing brunette, who has eight or ten boarders, both blondes and brunettes. These are a pretty lot of girls, of pleasing and engaging manners. It is regarded as a first class house, very quiet and orderly and is visited by some of our first citizens.

Red sandalwood, vanilla orchid, sweet clove, neroli, apple blossom, and a gentle hint of star anise.

Books are gifts that need to be given to yourself and to friends! And this year there are two very amazing and wonderful books that highlight LGBTQ, and make perfect gifts for LGBTQ and allies. Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay by Paul Vitagliano (DJ Paul V.) features photos and short essays by everyday people about growing up LBGTQ, as well as exclusive new stories and photos from LGBTQ people in the public eye, including Rep. Barney Frank, Erasure’s Andy Bell, actor Patrick Bristow, radio host Frank DeCaro, columnist Michael Musto, singer Sia, blogger Perez Hilton, composer Marc Shaiman, and drag legends Jackie Beat and Coco Peru. Born This Way is sweet, funny, at times heartbreaking, and ultimately joyful and triumphant.

Actor/activist/author Michael Kearns’  The Truth is Bad Enough: What Every Became of the Happy Hustler? is an important social documentary/autobiography by the first openly gay actor in Hollywood (Kearns came out during the peak of his television career which included stints on Cheers, Murder She Wrote, and The Fall Guy). In 1991 he publicly disclosed his HIV+ status on Entertainment Tonight, and in 1994 he adopted his daughter Katherine, making him the first openly gay, publicly HIV-positive, single man to become a father. Kearns also co-founded  two AIDS organizations with partner James Carroll Pickett: Artists Confronting AIDS and STAGE (Southland Theatre Artists Goodwill Event), the longest running theatrical benefit in the world.  The Truth is Bad Enough takes the reader through the nascent days of Gay Pride, through the AIDS crisis and beyond, from Kearns’ first major media explosion (Kearns created Grant Tracy Saxon, the bisexual author of The Happy Hustler, a deliberate spoof of Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker), his childhood and relationships, though his work in theaters as a playwright, and actor, as an activist, and most importantly as a father.

Many of the films we’ve featured on Firedoglake Movie Night are available on DVD, and out of the over 190 films we’ve discussed, there’s bound to be something for everyone on your list!

Who doesn’t love coffee? Okay, maybe a few people. This year along with Dean’s Beans, a pioneer in Fair Trade, organic coffee (all his beans are certified organic, Fair Trade, and kosher!) who can create custom roasts for everyone on your holiday lists, there’s a new java supplier on my list: Trystero Coffee, a nano-roaster in Atwater Village, right by the Los Angeles River. Bean maestro Greg small-batch roasts heirloom, direct trade varietals on Thursdays, then delivers them around town on a bicycle (though Trystero does ship priority mail fo rhtose of you out of cycling range). It’s a family business–just Greg and Nicole, and they rock. Plus Trystero’s name and logo is from one of my favorite books, The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.

There are now almost a hundred small wineries in the U.S. creating organic, sustainable and/or biodynamic wines. Some like Rubicon (Inglenook) owned by Francis Ford Coppola, are not, shall we say, inexpensive (his run about $250 a bottle!), but with some searching, you can find bottles in the $20 range, like Bonny Doon and Snoqualmie Valley.

Some times a special girls (or guy) needs a glamor gift, and that’s where Batcakes Couture comes in. Using ethically sourced feathers, Madame Batcakes creates fascinators,  boutonnieres, cuffs and headbands, as well as handmade crystal devil horns and lacy cat ears, plus amazing hats. And showgirl head dresses!  I gotta love and support a single mom who works 18 hours days and, having no insurance, paid for her son’s critical medical care herself (an extra $20,000 she had to glue together using just her skills as a hat maker).

I’ll bet many of you know a local artist or crafts person who makes some amazing items; or look for them via Facebook and at farmers or flea markets. By shopping local artisans, you help your community. Just make sure your local “artist” isn’t reselling stuff made elsewhere and claiming it as their own; you want to support their art/craft, not their ability to source “handmade” items from abroad and double the price–one problem found frequently on Etsy. Though Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson claims the craft site is trying to stem that problem, not much seems to have been done, despite Etsy community continually flagging blatant junk resellers.

Shop sensibly, locally, thoughtfully. And remember this is the time of year when many social groups and small organizations and charities get together to hold sales where you can find cool vintage goods and some great handmade items. Just maybe not the knit bra. Seriously.

Brad Pitt: War on Drugs “Nonsensical, Backwards, Inept”

Brad Pitt said something yesterday night we here at FDL have known for a long time:

I think it’s safe to say that the drug war is nonsensical. It’s a backwards, inept strategy.

The actor surprised audience members at a screening of Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In. Jarecki and his groundbreaking film about the United States’ flawed, ineffective drug policy were featured on FDL’s Movie Night last week.

Pitt introduced Jarecki and the film, jokingly using 12-Step lingo as he stepped on stage:

Hi, everybody. I’m Brad Pitt. And I’m a drug addict,

then stating:

Actually, my drug days have long passed, but it’s certainly true that I could land in any city and any state and get you anything you wanted. Just give me 24 hours, and I’ll know where to find it. And yet we still talk about the drug war as if it’s a success.

Before the screening, Pitt and Jarecki discussed the actor’s involvement with The Wrap:

The two men talked about the failures of the war on drugs, and about Jarecki’s contention – which Pitt originally said was “too liberal even for me” – that the criminal approach to drugs was being used to keep poor and minority communities down.

“We talked about those in poverty, and what he thought was the biggest stumbling block and the biggest thing holding them down,” Pitt said. “And certainly I had my own questions about the drug war.”

“There might be something else in play here, like we witnessed with Katrina.”

Exactly. And that something else is sadly racism and loathing for the poor. Pitt asked:

We have biggest penal system in the world, we have the most people incarcerated. And out of that 2.3 million, how many are for non-violent crimes?..Half. Something’s wrong.

Yes it is.

Penn Jillette Calls BS on Obama’s “States’ Rights”

Magician and arch-debunker Penn Jillette made a very valid point on his podcast Sunday: That Obama has called states’ rights for marriage equality, but not for marijuana laws.

First off states’ rights for marriage equality means that over 1,300 federal rights are denied to same-sex couples in the states that celebrate marriage equality, but that wasn’t where Jillette was going. The entertainer, doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs, said about Obama and marijuana legalization:

Now, he has not left this to states’ rights. As you know, medical marijuana… you can get in California, and the feds are coming in to try to stop this. States’ rights don’t mean jack sh*t to the Obama administration on anything except gay marriage.

Bottom line, Obama should repeal DOMA and let states set their own pot laws. Oh heck, go whole hog and federally legalize marijuana.

(And for the record, I don’t do pot either.)


HT Huffington Post

Late Night: Food, Weed and Black Metal

I like fois gras, and the state of California now wants to pry the fatted duck liver off my fork. But this is America, and there’s room for all sorts of food lovers, from tattooed fois gras fans to vegan black metal chefs.

And thus I am very confused about this whole states rights issue that Obama brought up re: marriage equality. Like, it’s okay for states to decide if people can get married or not, and the Federal government won’t interfere, but when states decide that medical marijuana is legal, the Feds jump in and say


Could some explain that to me?

Pat Robertson Is the Cancer That’s Killing Christianity


Earlier this week, Pat Robertson almost barely redeemed himself when he stood up for the legalization of marijuana. But now he’s gone one toke over the line, declaring non-Christians a virus:

It’s like a virus, if you have, we have, all of us have, antibodies in our system and if our system is healthy we can repel viruses, but once those antibodies breakdown then the viruses take over. The antibody to these false religions have been vibrant Christianity.

Okay, first off, Robertson’s analysis is bad science. Antibodies do not “break down” or wear out. Actually the body maintains a durable reservoir, a memory bank, of antigens  in specific cells of the lymph nodes and spleen. That’s why once you’ve had chicken pox or last year’s flu you don’t get it again. The immune system doesn’t forgive, and it doesn’t forget.

Granted, the immune system, which is in charge of the antibodies, can become less than fully capable of effectivly mounting appropriate responses to a threat (For instance, chemotherapy, radiation and certain illnesses can weaken the immune system). So maybe Robertson meant the whole immune system, rather than just the antibody portion. But, dude, get it right, stop spreading ignorance and false information.

And from another angle, Robertson maybe should lay off huffing the he-wishes-it-were-legal wacky ‘baccy and watching sci-fi movies. If his commentary sounds familiar, maybe it’s because it’s lifted from The Matrix, via a host of other thinkers and writers, like Williams Burroughs who wrote in Cities of Red Night:

Not just language, but the whole quality of human consciousness, as expressed in male and female, is basically a virus mechanism.

Actually, Agent Smith’s description matches missionary zealotry of militant Christianity–with its torture, conquering, subsequent enslavement and destruction of peaceful civilizations–a lot better than it matches Robertson’s boogeymen of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Pagan faiths which eschew proselytizing and forced conversions.

Pat Robertson’s brand of Christianity is like a malignant tumor, arising in an ostensibly normal component of a healthy body, only one part of the whole, but through its malignant nature seeks to command all available resources for its own expansion at the expense of the body’s needs until killing it.

Pat Robertson: Legalize Weed!

Holy  joints!  Conservative televangelist Pat Robertson has come out in favor of marijuana legalization telling the New York Times:

I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol. I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.

Um, duh. Needless to say, lots of pro-pot groups are stoked that Robertson has spoken up about the war on drugs’ epic fail which has imprisoned thousands on personal use drug charges. Robertson said:

Prisons are being overcrowded with juvenile offenders having to do with drugs. And the penalties, the maximums, some of them could get 10 years for possession of a joint of marijuana. It makes no sense at all.

Then in a weird cognitive shift, Robertson explained that overpopulated jails are due in a large part to  to a

liberal mindset to have an all-encompassing government.

Whoa  Pat, dude, what have you been smoking?


Peter Tosh’s Music Joins Rights Campaigns

Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday Aug 9, the estate of reggae artist Peter Tosh is joining with Amnesty International in a campaign to draw attention to the plight of Mexican human rights defender Lydia Cacho.  Amnesty is offering a free download of Tosh’s anthem, “Get Up Stand Up,” to people taking action in her case at Cacho, a Cancún-based journalist and human rights defender, has received numerous death threats by phone and email, and there are serious fears for her safety.

Tosh–the most outspoken of Jamaica’s reggae pioneers – helped popularize  “Get Up, Stand Up” (co-written with Bob Marley) which has become a standard at Amnesty International rallies and at civil and human rights fundraisers, large and small, around the world. 2011 marks the human rights organization’s 50th anniversary

In the weeks to come, Tosh’s music will also be used in campaigns from Greenpeace International, (now in its 40th year), Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Students for a Sensible Drug Policy will use Tosh’s “Legalize It” in efforts to support new federal legalization legislation introduced in Congress in July.

The union of Tosh’s music and  activist campaigns follows the release of the expanded Legacy Edition reissues of Tosh’s seminal solo albums Legalize It (1976) and Equal Rights (1977), both available online.

Willie Nelson’s Teapot Party Endorses…uh…whut? Oh, Nevermind

(Willie Nelson finds Nirvana)


Willie Nelson’s Teapot Party was formed last November after the singer was arrested for pot possession. The goal of the party is support candidates who think the way the Teappotters to do. Which pretty much means legalizing marijuana.

Just three days ago Willie Nelson endorsed former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as the GOP nominee; Johnson admits to smoking pot and is pro-legalization. Heck Johnson even attended a bunch of pro- hemp and pot rallies across the country! Non of this “I never inhaled,” namby-pambyism from him.

But then–after Willie endorsed and Johnson sent out an acceptance quote and it was all over the media, Willie changed his mind. Instead, he told campaign advisers, he likes Dennis Kucinich for president.

Nelson now says

I think I will wait and see where he [Johnson] stands on other things. My bad. Sorry. I still think he is a good guy but so is Dennis and if he decided to run I would personally vote for him. If it came down to either him or Gary I’m already committed to Dennis. They both have said they support legal pot…This will blow over and the world moves on. No harm done. We sound like a bunch of pot smokers, that’s all…The more I get into politics the more I realize that I am a guitar player.

The presidential election is more than just a one-issue race. And while the Teapot Party might want to take a page from corporations by backing a candidate form each party, in the end endorsing a candidate is a serious business which requires more than just a a bong’s worth of thought.


[HT: Celeb Stoner]

Late Night: Obama Says-Drugs Aren’t a Health Issue, They’re a Legal Matter

While President Obama told Law Enforcement Against Prohibition member MacKenzie Allen, a retired deputy sheriff during an interview with the organization:

We have to think more about drugs as a public health problem

his comments on the new federal drug new budget show things in a different light.

But Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has a different view towards Ecstasy. They printed up a flier for distribution at raves which gave

tips such as “aim low” in both dose and frequency of the hallucinogen and to take regular breaks to let the body rest…

And ignored the legality. The fliers state that effects of Ecstasy

may include elevated mood and energy, enhanced sensations and a sense of emotional connectedness,” but also warn that it can lead to depression, anxiety and irritability.

It also says repeated Ecstasy use should be avoided. It’s a pretty wimpy attempt to tell people

Hey this stuff is BAD for you and you could go to jail!

The fliers were developed by county health officials and paid for by rave promoters after over 100 people were hospitalized at a series of huge raves at publicly owned facilities such as the Coliseum and L.A. Sports Arena which are rented by the gianormous party promoters.

L.A. city and county officials did not ban the raves, even after a 15 year-old girl died of an Ecstasy overdose in July, and the flier is the result of a task force convened to study the matter.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich raised a ruckus and Public Health officials said they would immediately  revise the card

to further and more emphatically state that illegal drug use is dangerous.

I hope they didn’t print up a forest worth of these useless fliers.

Pot isn’t Ecstasy, and yet LA County at least recognizes the health issues of drug use. Drug use is health issue–pot and be very helpful for people who are ill, while drug addiction is a public health issue which should be addressed with treatment and harm reduction, rather than imprisonment.

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