Monday, June 23, 2014

How Drug Busts Mean Big Money for Law Enforcement

I've been a long-time fan and Internet friend of Mr. Dan Carlin, a Libertarian-leaning journalist, commentator and historian who painstakingly crafts some of the best podcasts in podcast history.

Hardcore History is a captivating look at historical events and should be a must-listen for any college student who is tired of history being flat and boring. (I've learned more from this program than all of my college years combined.)

Dan Carlin's other podcast is Common Sense. This is where Dan gets down and dirty with current political events and their bigger implications on our individual freedom.

What does this have to do with medical marijuana?

His latest podcast called "Fearsome Safety" is an in-depth look at the local and federal incentives behind drug busts as well as the increasing militarization in our police forces.

To have a greater understanding of what's going on behind-the-scenes in California as the federal authorities there continue to close established, law-abiding medical marijuana dispensaries by the dozens, listen to this first.

I'll give you a little hint:

[above - U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, spearheading the most massive medical marijuana dispensary crackdowns in history. And laughing all the way to the bank with her cronies.]

In short: the Feds reward police forces with money and equipment for drug raids - and have for a long  time. Due to forfeiture laws, police keep money and property seized as "suspected" drug proceeds. No conviction is required. Drugs destroyed, money kept.

In the US Attorney's current "witch hunt" in California, the financial and political gains are multiplied exponentially. Millions of dollars are being seized and dispersed, with little to no accountability. Legal profiteering, plain and simple.

And even more insidious are the ultimate Big Brother goals, which are to rid the U.S. of these "mom and pop" dispensaries and replace them with Big Pharma companies hand-chosen by greedy politicians such as Haag.

And to put a cherry on top of this pile of...corruption is the oh-so-noble reason Haag gives for these relentless and needless crackdowns:

Come on, let's say it together. You know the words: THE CHILDREN.
"The main theme that I was hearing from members of this community,  members of our community in the northern district of California was a  concern about children." - Melinda Haag
So touching, her concern. I wonder if she can babysit for me tonight.

Listen to Dan's Podcast Now!

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Dan Carlin on iTunes

Americans for Forfeiture Reform

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Top Ten Secrets to Online Writing $uccess

Okay, so my online writing hasn't made me millions. But I've received a good deal of attention, with several of my pieces going viral and getting my name out there among a community of peers. But more than that, it's given me an outlet for my creativity and a sense of accomplishment.

So here are a few of my not-so-secret secrets:

1. Keep posts short and clean! 500 - 700 words short. If you have a longer piece, post in installations with a link to your initial piece. Keep your paragraphs short as well. Online readers are scanners. They like quick, easy reads, not big blocks of text.

Make your blog visually interesting by laying it out well. Bullet point, number and block quote when you can. Don't indent paragraphs three spaces or double-space between sentences (old school). Read your work aloud before you post aloud then trim it down. (Most blog posts I come across could be reduced by 20 - 30%.) And spell check, of course.

2. Create catchy titles. A good title can truly make or break a piece. My piece entitled The 16 Most Overrated Sexual Acts of All Time and 13 People who Ruined it for Everyone Else got more attention than my post simply titled Love Means. Hmmm...wonder why?

3. Know your News. Regardless of the type of blog or article you write, staying on top of current events, themes and cultural directions gives your writing a "now" edge that resonates, regardless of the subject matter.

You may not want to focus entirely on headline news because it will drown in a sea of similar pieces. Find an interesting niche and exploit it.

When I saw a movement called Boobquake forming in response to an Iranian cleric's misguided statement about women and promiscuity, I threw my feminist hat in the ring. Sure, Boobquake was getting some attention but it wasn't on the cover of the New York Times. My piece found a place within the debate.

So it's important to stay abreast (pun woefully intended) of the world around you for the sake of relevancy.

4. Reach out. Remember your pieces are online. It's not a stuffy essay handed into your college professor. That means add links whenever relevant or whenever irrelevant. (Note in Number 2 how I oh so subtly linked to three of my pieces, which drives traffic to those posts.)

And be generous. I work with many photographers, writers and musicians and happily link to their pages when I'm allowed to use their work. It's a win/win, karmically and creatively.

5. Brand yourself. I'm kind of done with that awful B word, but until I find another, I'll continue with my point: be your own PR machine. Post great shots of yourself online (not blurry, not underexposed and not of your damn cat.) If you don't want to post a photo of yourself, come up with a one-of-kind avatar. Develop a color scheme and style that represents you - or the you you want to be. Use language that is distinctly your own.

Treat yourself like a superhero or a mythic character, where you create your own costume, superpowers, catch phrases, titles, imaginary words, villains, alter egos and kryptonite. Create a world that is distinctly your own online. Mythologize yourself and your story.

6. Take Chances.
You're writing online with about 3 trillion others. You simply must take some risks with your writing. Dare to be outspoken - or simply brave enough to express a difficult emotion or delicate situation.

In our "real" lives, we are in a constant state of self-censoring. Your online writing is an opportunity to express yourself with boldness and panache. Take some liberties you might not take in real life. Safe writing is boring writing. If you're worried about what others might think as you write, you're already off your path, I guarantee.

Write to the bone. It's the name of a book that I never read. But the title has always stuck with me. Writing to the bone means that good writing goes deeper and may make you uncomfortable as you write it.

If you try too hard to keep up some false, cutesy persona, your work won't resonate. People like reading about the human experience - the trials, foibles, pain, messiness, confusion, existential angst and glaring imperfections. Dig!

7. Truth, Shmuth. I might get some flack for this, but I don't feel the need to be 100% honest online (hell, I'm lucky if I'm 70% "honest.") I'm not advocating lying; I'm just saying pull at your truth like taffy.

Years ago, I heard an interview with Orson Welles: He said he will often "borrow" stories from others and make them his own, embellishing them along the way. He doesn't feel like it's lying, just molding a good story.

Back to the superhero analogy, your real-life stories can be transformed into action-packed or emotionally-provocative tales. Blow them up! You don't need to convey every iota of boring truth. Further your story by treating it like a tale.

(Of course, if you're writing fact-based, journalistic blogs, you may want to stick some facts in there.)

8. Make it multimedia. The Internet is very alive and in movement, with words, images, videos and sounds. Your online writing needs to be as well. Use other forms of media within your piece.

If there's an image I like, I email the artist directly, who is usually happy to share as long as it's credited properly. Again, win/win. Collaborating with other artists around the world is truly a heady and wonderful feeling as well.

Or better yet? Shoot your own video and images. Use your own music. DIY, baby.

There are also great online resources like Creative Commons "a non-profit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright."

9. Sex Sells. Oh, it's true and you know it. But luckily, you don't need to share the sordid details about your sex life (unless you want to, of course.)

I'm talking about is sexing up your writing. Use lush, rich language that you can touch, taste and smell. Use out-of-the-box analogies to tell your story. Be bold in your word choice. Think rich, creamy dessert. Think word foreplay. Reading online is essentially boring. Your words need to enliven and seduce.

10. Move it.
Most people get the hang of social media by now. And you'd better - because a blog sitting stagnantly on Blogger or WordPress alone will not get many eyes on it. Be your own hustler.

I write my pieces on Blogger. It's my homebase - my library. Then I post it on Open Salon, Red Room and She Writes, all great sites with a large community of writers and readers. Then I post it on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, etc. After that, I send an email notice out to several hundred people. I also dutifully read other writers' work and post comments.

And I submit my pieces to relevant publications....well, I try. I still have a business to run!
(Smooth plug, Beth!)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hindsight Can’t Be 2030

“Unknowingly, the architecture and building community is responsible for almost half of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions annually."

Ed Mazria
Architecture 2030

According to a recent Architecture 2030 report, 3/4 of the built environment in the U.S. will either be new or renovated. This presents a one-shot, pressing historical opportunity to address and possibly reverse the significant impact the building and architecture community has on CO2 emissions and ultimately, climate change.

Mazria, founder of the non-profit organization Architecture 2030, proposes a 2030 Challenge to the global building community to support the 50% reduction of carbon emissions in all new buildings, ultimately resulting in a “carbon neutral” status by 2030.

The key factor in a proactive reduction of building-related CO2 reductions is design:

“Every time we design a building, we set up its energy consumption pattern and its greenhouse gas emissions pattern for the next 50 -100 years. That's why the building sector and the architecture sector is so critical. It takes a long time to turn over – whereas the transportation sector, on wheels, in this country, turns over once every twelve years.”

His challenge is being widely received in the architectural community from the American Institute of Architects to the US Conference of Mayors. But Mazria is the first to admit, they are a small organization spearheading an all-encompassing initiative with a looming deadline:

“We just don't have that much time left. We really have to work absolutely as hard as we can right now to get things done. We need everyone - I mean everyone - really pulling in the same direction, and not getting discouraged.”

Mazria realizes that incentives become imperative as well, as he pushes his idea with Congress members in a visit to Washington, D.C. last year:

“In some cases there are costs involved, so if you provide incentives you can help accelerate the adoption of the Challenge - so the quicker we get incentives into place, the better.”

Of course, the best incentive for any organization to go green is money. Many companies who at first thought a green-friendly appearance was a nice little feather in their cap are realizing it’s more than just for popularity contest, it’s becoming a corporate necessity:

“If you’re starting to design or build a new building project or development today and you don’t certify it as green, it will be functionally obsolete the day it opens and economically for its entire lifetime,” said Jerry Yudelson, a green building consultant and former board member of the USGBC (United States Green Building Council).

This is becoming increasingly true in the land down under, where Australia’s Green Building Council and its popular Green Star rating has been effectively integrated into the architectural landscape. 30% of new buildings are considered sustainable in comparison with the U.S’s paltry 10% figure. Valuation of these green building is expected to rise comparatively though there are no definitive figures in place.

In other words, building green not only saves money but also, ultimately, saves and earns money. To not build with sustainability in mind may mean obsolescence and financial failure for builders. This concept forces people on the green bandwagon, whether they wanted to get onboard or not.

- Beth Mann

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Clorox – Bleaching a Perception

Some market analysts believe if Clorox can change its public perception to “green friendly” then other companies with similar eco-challenged image problems will soon follow suit.

Recently, Oakland-based company Clorox released a new line of cleaning products called Green Works, which includes all-purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, dilutable cleaner and bathroom cleaner. These products, according to Green Works, are, "at least 99 percent natural" and made from coconuts and lemon oil, formulated to be biodegradable and non-allergenic, packaged in recyclable bottles and not tested on animals.

But can a company whose name alone elicits a noxious cloud make it in the green market? Well, first Clorox would like to set the record straight about it’s most well known product – bleach. Clorox considers bleach an ecologically safe product, essentially made of salt and water when it’s all said and done. "The bleach cycle — from production to use to environmental fate — is simple and sustainable." the website states.

Interestingly, Clorox has a fairly unstained reputation environmentally. Though not considered a major player in the eco-playing field, it is still a company whose green strides are noteworthy. They have several programs in place that address waste and emissions, package reduction and in addition, tout a steady compliance record. And while Clorox bleach is their most commonly known product, their brands include S.O.S, Kingsford charcoal, Brita water filters, Hidden Valley salad dressing and most recently, Burt’s Bee’s personal care products.

The Green Works line has an interesting history as well as marketing perspective. A small group within Clorox conducted their own research and found that an ever-increasing market was ready for eco-friendly cleaners but weren’t necessarily “sold” on the existing brands in the market, either due to lack of name recognition or more important, effectiveness in cleaning. The additional perk from a selling perspective is the trust most people have with Clorox due to its history, longevity and dependability.

With widespread distribution in the works at places like Wal-Mart and affordable prices only slightly higher than the average cleaner, Green Works seems poised to be a winner.

Moral of the story? Even an “old school” company with an obvious eco-unfriendly stigma can change its appearance with some key marketing moves and forward-thinking green changes. Clorox can remove a stain in more ways than one, apparently.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dating – Step out of Clubs and into Classes

Clubs and bars are becoming a less popular meeting place for men and women. Both men and women are increasingly health conscious, with busy, long days that don’t allow for crazy, wild, late nights. (Sigh – goodbye crazy, wild, late nights.)

And truth be told, bar and clubs always have always had their limitations. We all know the story: she seemed like the love of your life, after 8 beers and 3 shots. The next morning, you turned awkwardly away from one another, throbbing heads in hands. Plus, the politics of meeting a woman at a bar can get complicated – if she’s with her friends, how do you approach her? Should you buy her a drink? Do you even like her or is it the Jameson’s talking?

The new meeting places tend to be based in daytime activities and seem to generate a better sense of genuine, person-to-person connection, where two sober people are engaging in a constructive and fun activity.

These new locales include your gym. Most gyms offer yoga or Pilates classes. And both men and women are taking them. You don’t have to be a physical expert. Sometimes, it’s endearing for a woman to see you attempting a “Downward Dog” and failing (though you might feel like a little bit of a shmuck.)

Dance classes are a big risk for most guys. But most women love a man who at least tries to dance. If you take a Tango class, for instance, you have a built-in opportunity to get close to a woman. And if there’s no one there you’re particularly interested in, you’ll at least learn a skill that’s guaranteed to sweep any woman off her feet.

If you’re near a park, there are generally “pick-up” matches (aptly named) where both men and women can join in a game of co-ed soccer or football or Frisbee. And many times, the gang goes out afterwards for a beer, giving you more of a chance to chat it up with the cutie in the hot shorts. You’ll notice a very different bar dynamic at this point – you just shared an experience with her. She is far more receptive and trusting. You’re “on the same team.”

The other good part with taking a class or jumping in a game is its availability. Wherever you live, be it city or small town, there are classes and parks. You don’t have to spend a fortune at a bar and deal with liver toxicity the next day.

You’ll notice a different “pool” of women in general. Positive, active women engaged in developing themselves physically or mentally. I wish I could say you could encounter that kind of growth in a bar, but you know as well as I do, the desperation factor is a little higher.

So open your mind when it comes to meeting places. You could learn something and get healthier while meeting the girl of your dreams…or at the least the girl in the jeans.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dating and Shaking off the Cobwebs

You haven’t been dating in a while. Maybe you’ve recently ended a long-term relationship. Maybe you’ve been too busy to date. Whatever the reason, you just feel “out of the loop.” Maybe its time for a little spring-cleaning.

Some simple external changes can change the way we feel about ourselves (though of course, not entirely.) So let’s take a look at you, shall we?

Let’s start with a little grooming. Get ye to a hairdresser…and a good one. Put down a few bucks to have it done decently – don’t just go to your local barber or chop shop. While you’re there, grab a grooming product. If you never use the stuff, ask the stylist how. A good haircut really does a lot to give you a clean, welcoming appearance. If you’re short on hair (aka balding), the same still applies. Work with what you have!

Now let’s continue with the rest of grooming regimen. This includes a good shave, skin product (a light moisturizer you can use on your face and neck. Well-maintained skin also gives you a heads-up in the look department). Nails? Clip them and well! I’ve had many women during my interviews tell me that unkempt finger or toenails are a real turn-off.

Let’s check out your closet. Do you consistently wear the same crappy t-shirt and sweatpants? Maybe you always wear the same muted, unexciting colors? I encourage you to toss out some of the older stuff asap. You’re trying to develop a whole new look and you don’t want those old standbys to tempt you!

Even on a tight budget, you can do wonders in the fashion department. If you have a good female friend, ask her what she thinks of some of your existing clothes.

If you can’t afford to get a few new shirts or pants or jacket, then visit your local thrift store. It’s where I do most of my shopping and I often get compliments on my clothing choices. This time, go for some color, some pizzazz. Leave the beige clothing or t-shirts with any words on it behind! Oh and nix that god-awful baseball cap while you’re at it!

Lastly, start working out, if you’re not already. I don’t care where you are physically – dumpy, chubby, scrawny, whatever. Just start some program. Keep it simple. It can be as simple as a long walk several times a week.

You’re not trying for the ultimate perfect body. You’re just trying to feel better about yourself overall. And that starts with exercise. Don’t ride yourself too hard – we all have imperfections. Exercise because it just makes you feel better, more alive, and that comes across when you’re meeting women.

Of course, most importantly, you have to feel mentally ready to jump on the horse again. But by making some of the external changes, you’ll notice you naturally become more ready, more confident. You’ll want to show off your new look!

Monday, March 3, 2008

How to Ask for a Date Casually

Most men tense up when I ask them how they go about asking for a date, let alone going on the date itself. Not a good sign! I try to convey to them the importance of removing their pre-conceived ideas of the word “date.” Think of it as a meeting, a greeting, an appointment – or just some time to hang out and get to know someone. “Date” just elicits too many dusty fears of high school days; you know, that “date” with the big, gawky girl with the braces and the donkey-style laugh?

So how do you ask someone out without breaking into a cold sweat? It’s simple – don’t “ask them out” in the traditional sense of the term, unless you feel really ready for it. A formal date request means being ready for a possible rejection. It also requires a little more work and bravery. If you are ready for both of these elements, than by all means, go ahead.

But most of the guys I encounter contend with some form of shyness. Some just haven’t been dating in a while and feel rusty and ill prepared. For these guys, I propose a different direction: asking for a date casually.

This means including a woman of interest in an event you already have in place, for instance. Say you have two tickets for a baseball game. You can simply say something like, “Hey, I happened to score two tickets for the Mets this Saturday. Would you have any interest in going?” See. That doesn’t sound so…datey! It seems like more of a casual invitation.

Now, if she says no, don’t feel immediately rejected. Determine how she says no before you have a knee-jerk reaction. A “No thanks” is considerably different “Shoot, I’d love to but I’m going to my friend’s wedding.” Very different animals. The latter means there is some interest (possibly) and you can give it a shot in the future.

Another nice casual technique is the “Let’s get some coffee” approach. Meeting for a coffee isn’t as weighted as a dinner date. You could also ask this at the last minute (generally not a good idea if you are going on a formal date, where you should in theory give a week’s notice) and most women are more receptive to it, since it’s less pressure for them, too.

You can also ask your lady of interest to join in on a group outing. Let’s say you and your buddies go for a drink or two every Friday night. You can ask her to join up and bring a friend or two. Again, it’s pretty pressure-free and casual.

At some point, you want to break out of the casual mode and move toward a formal date. But if you’re a little shy or rusty, then these techniques allow a “date” to take place, even if both of you didn’t notice!