Political Fix (15 October, 2015)

Can You Smell the Reefer Yet?

When Californians vote to legalize marijuana in November of 2016, which seems likely happen, pot will be legal up and down the entire West Coast, including Alaska. But California is the biggest prize of 2016. A victory in California could possibly portend the beginning of the end of the criminalization of pot throughout the country. Although 56% of Californians support the legalization of pot, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, there are still many dissenters, most of them sitting right here on the Tulare County Supervisors’ dais.

Right now, five initiatives to legalize marijuana are in the process of gathering signatures. Of the five initiatives vying to get on the ballot, the one most likely to succeed has a provision for local control, meaning our supervisors can decide if the growing, selling and consuming of pot will be legal on county lands. That prospect is a little scary, but has its advantages.

Tulare County Supervisors have discussed making Tulare County a “dry state.”

I’m not sure how wise it is to criminalize smoking pot, but I don’t feel the same about its cultivation. One of the possible provisions of the new law will be similar to alcohol: Businesses that sell or distribute marijuana will not be able to grow it. That is a position that the Tulare County Supervisors may want to consider.

We already give up most of our water so farmers can feed the world. Do we really want to give up the rest of our water to irrigate pot fields so that some spoiled brat in Marin County can get stoned on a highway pull-out sitting in his Jag while looking over the Golden Gate Bridge? I don’t think so.

Maybe the smart thing to do is ban the cultivation of pot in our county and let Marin County, with their 3.3% unemployment rate and their $133,000 medium income, waste their water, ruin their environment, and raise their crime rates to grow their own pot. Why should we grow pot? Anyone in Tulare County who wants it will still be able to legally buy it.

So the next time Marinites want to light up a spliff in their plein-air hot tub, let the pot come from their neck of the woods. Let them grow their own pot in a clearing in the redwood forest instead of our Sequoia National Park or our drought-ridden Valley floor.

Let’s Get Politicized

When Republicans scolded President Obama for politicizing the mass shooting in Oregon, this is what he had to say.

“This is something we should politicize.”

He went on to say, “the notion that gun laws don’t work is not borne out by the evidence.” Reducing the frequency of mass shootings is merely “a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of their (lawmakers) inaction.”

President Obama’s reaction to the mass shooting was to go to Umpqua, to try one more time to inspire congress to pass a meaningful gun control law.

Jeb Bush’s reaction to the Oregon shooting was “stuff happens.” Ben Carson said, “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.”

Other Republican reactions were to continue politicizing the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi while accusing President Obama of politicizing mass shootings in Oregon.

Donald Trump blamed mental illness for the carnage in Oregon last week. “This isn’t guns, this is about mental illness,” he said on ABC’s This Week. “You have sick people in this country and throughout the world, and you’re always going to have difficulty.” So according to Trump there should be just as many gun related deaths in England as in the United States because they have the same number of mental health problems. Right?

Wrong. The answer is pretty simple. The US is an outlier on gun violence because it has exponentially more guns than other developed nation. Whereas 33,636 Americans were killed by guns in 2013, in England there were 290 gun related deaths, according to vox.com.

When economist Richard Florida took a look at gun deaths and other social indicators, he found that higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness didn’t correlate with more gun deaths. But he did find one telling correlation: States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

The following are statistics and statements mostly compiled by the website vox.com.

For 2015 there have already been 247 mass shootings in 238 days. Some days there were none and some days there were multiple mass shootings. A mass shooting is when at least four people were shot in one day by one shooter.

Whenever a mass shooting occurs, supporters of gun rights argue that it’s inappropriate to bring up political debates about gun control in the aftermath of a tragedy.

For example, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a strong supporter of gun rights, criticized President Obama for “trying to score cheap political points” when the president mentioned gun control after a mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

It will never be the right time to discuss mass shootings. America has nearly one mass shooting a day. But if lawmakers are forced to wait for a time when there isn’t a mass shooting to talk about gun control, that will never happen. Of course, that’s exactly what the pro-NRA Republicans want.

States with more guns tend to have far more gun deaths. And it’s not just one study. “Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide,” David Hemenway, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s director, wrote in Private Guns, Public Health.

Given that states with more guns tend to have more homicides, it isn’t too surprising that, as a study in the American Journal of Public Health found, states with more guns also have more cops die in the line of duty.

Researchers looked at federal data for firearm ownership and the homicides of police officers across the US over 15 years. They found that states with more gun ownership had more cops killed: Every 10% increase in firearm ownership correlated with 10 additional officers killed in homicides over the 15-year study period.

President Obama said, “In the coming days we will learn about the victims. The young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams, on what they could make of their lives. And America will wrap everyone who is grieving with our prayers and our love.”

Well, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t going to stop the massive number of gun deaths in the United States or protect our children. In December 2012, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 20 children, six adults, and himself. Since then, there have been at least 986 mass shootings, with shooters killing at least 1,234 people and wounding 3,565 more.

“May God bless the memories of those who were killed today. May He bring comfort to their families and courage to the injured as they fight their way back. And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change,” President Obama said.

And Finally……

With all of the hype surrounding former Tulare Police Chief Jerry Breckinridge, I thought I would give the story behind the story.

After reading the 60-plus comments written on our website concerning the article about the Tulare Police Chief, it is evident that this information has been circulating around the county for months, and that the Valley Voice didn’t report anything new. This was also confirmed by Tulare Vice-Mayor Carlton Jones, who wrote, “as a citizen I think Jerry made a huge mistake and it’s being swept under the rug, I think other officers know the truth.”

As for the anonymous sources, Chris and Pat could be men or women, and could have been present or not at the incidents involving Mr. Breckinridge. What I can say for sure is that they both have extensive knowledge about law enforcement. The two other sources I used to write the article were character references who verified that Chris and Pat were who they said they were.

As far as the content of the article, I could have written more. I held back information to protect my sources and I withheld information that was juicy but not entirely relevant to the story.

Here are a few other things we all know about this case and that I will say out loud. First, when someone is “finally” caught drunk driving, that means they have been doing it for a long time. The same is probably true about the domestic abuse arrest. Second, if this had been you or me, our asses would have been hauled off to jail. Third, if the city manager, Don Dorman, had handled the situation appropriately, there would have been no story. Fourth, if Tulare had a vibrant, active daily newspaper, Mr. Dorman might have acted appropriately.

Lastly, Mr. Breckinridge’s resignation isn’t the end of his career. It is just the beginning – depending on him. If Mr. Breckinridge comes out the other end of this difficult time in his life recovered and able, he could be the head of a police force much larger than Tulare’s.

Most of our intelligent Valley Voice readers disagreed with the few commenters who said, “this is a personal matter.”

If your neighbor is arrested for domestic abuse or drunk driving, that’s a personal matter. When a public figure has disappeared for months without an explanation, and is still being paid, that’s a public matter.

When a city employee is put on paid administrative leave, it likely means some sort of misconduct took place and an investigation is in the works. If Mr. Breckinridge wanted to keep whatever happened and the ensuing investigation private, he should have resigned immediately. If he wants to stay absent on the taxpayers’ nickel, then the city manager has to explain why.

What happened to the Tulare Police Chief is our right to know and whether the Tulare City Council or the city staff has finally gotten that message is uncertain. But given that, now it’s time for them to cough up what happened to Tulare Deputy City Manager Margee Fallert. She has been “absent” since April while collecting monthly salary of $11,200.

In conclusion, Vice-Mayor Jones asked a Valley Voice reader, “out of every paper, news channel and radio. Why do you think VV was the only outlet these invisible 4 went to?”

That leads me to why I wrote the story. I wrote the story because it is news. I wrote the story because when Mr. Dorman explains the situation only by stating that their police chief is “unavailable,” it is an injustice to the citizens of Tulare. To answer Mr. Jones question, the sources came to the Valley Voice because they knew we would do our job and print the story.

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