Hi, it’s time for my end of year 2005 letter….even if it’s already 2006. Happy New Year!
So for a few years now I’ve been writing these little end of year summaries. I started because I was getting lots of end of year letters from my friends telling me about their family story, and I didn’t have one — my end of year sumaries would have been pretty self-indulgent! I’d also got some good responses to some suggestions I made about charities and causes I support. This year was a very exciting one for me personally as I got a teeny bit closer to being one of those people who writes those family letters. I met a new girlfriend (well re-met actually), had a great vacation in Europe with her and, well, eventually the lovely Amanda and her beautiful and sometimes well-behaved dog Charley moved in with me in October. So far we’ve been having a great time, and have been redecorating the loft (which I moved into in San Francisco in July 2004), putting new floors in and being generally very domestic. I get to take Charley for lots of walks, and Amanda watches lots of British soccer, and has a big crush on Chelsea’s England international Joe Cole. We’ll be in England in the early Summer for my sister Dordy’s wedding to Simon, and if we’re lucky in the ticket lottery may sneak into a World Cup game or two. Check in next year (or sooner) for more news!
And of course if you have any comments, nice or nasty to make about my letter, please let me know (even if it’s that you don’t remember who I am and want to be taken off this email list!)
Cheers & Happy New Year
But most of the reason for this note is to remind you about which charities I support. Nothing too new here. I’m still asking you to spend a minute thinking about the poorest people in the world, and the disadvantaged here at home. (And later there’ll be a little about political causes that upset me!)
Education and economic promotion, particularly of girls and women, is still what I believe to be the most effective way to help people out of poverty. Anyone concerned about this world must believe that better education for women is part of the answer.
My first favorite charity is World Schoolhouse, which is part of NetAid. NetAid is sponsored by Cisco which pays its administrative bills, so its donors don’t have to. I’ve donated to a project which educates girls in the far west of Pakistan where only 12% of women are literate. But there are lots of others that are equally great.
I also feel a special connection with Vietnam, where I spent several weeks in 2002. So for my second favorite, I sponsor three young children via the Saigon Children’s Charity. Saigon Children’s Charity not only allows you to sponsor kids in school remarkably cheaply (far less than I spent on my New Year’s Eve dinner), but also runs a micro-lending organization for very poor families — a great way of promoting economic self-sufficiency. For both of these appeals the amount required is fairly small, so your contribution really does make a difference that you can see.
In the US we’ve just had a major disaster which showed up many of our governments and, for that matter, relief organizations. One of the best responses to the devastation of Katrina that I know came from a physician I know at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Enoch Choi went to Louisiana to deliver direct medical care, and here’s his account (Start here and click thru the days at the top). Enoch’s trip was sponsored by his church in Menlo Park, with support from City Team Ministries. Those of you who know me may be surprised that I gave to openly evangelical religious organizations — but there’s no question that they are supporting much needed work directly and I know that Enoch and his colleagues did great necessary work. Here’s Enoch’s take on it in my blog. The Palo Alto/Menlo Park parents club also did great work getting supplies to the affected area, and Glennia Campbell (married to my Stanford friend Frank Schellenberg) has been a driving force behind that.
But everyday in every city in America and elsewhere there are homeless people and homeless families. There are wider causes of homelessness that need a political solution, but for now there are people who just need some help. In my city of San Francisco, I like to support Hamilton Family Center which is a relatively small shelter offering emergency and transitional care for families and children who need help. But Google will connect you with local charities if you live somewhere else.
On the political front the news across the planet and in the US kept getting worse….
We end the year with the American President officially declaring that he is above the law; and need not follow even the excessive secret provisions of the PATRIOT act. I continue to believe that America is better than the mob of criminals running it, and that’s why I continue to be a member of the ACLU, which continues to hold us to higher ideals. You can join here
Torture is now official American policy, and we’re exporting it all over the world. Of course torture is not only wrong, it’s counter-productive in that it is not how to get the best information out of criminals or terrorists. But the worse thing about torture as an official policy, is that it puts us on the same moral level as many many awful regimes across the world. One organization I’ve supported for many years works to help victims of torture. It’s the Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture, based in London, and you can find out more and support it here. You might want to read about some of the stories of its clients. Horrific. And we should all think barring that accident of birth, it could be any of us.
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Meanwhile, I continue to be passionately opposed to drug prohibition. While you may or may not agree with me that there’s nothing intrinsically good or bad about drug use, it’s beyond dispute that there is something very, very harmful about prohibition. It enriches criminals, it increases addiction, it abandons neighborhoods and communities to criminals and violence, and it abandons drug users to the mercies of those same criminals — rather than offering them the help we give to other people with addictive illnesses. And of course the reason prohibition continues is because there’s a huge amount of money in it for the law enforcement & prison complex that profits from it — even though we all suffer from the policy AND have to pay the taxes to support it and the hundreds of thousands of non-violent offenders in jail.
And the cruelest treatment is doled out to those connected with medical marijuana. So I concentrate on that in this letter.
Last year was predictably bad on the drug reform front. Some of the stories that I’ve been following over the years had nasty endings. The US Supreme Court in its continuing lack of wisdom ruled against Angel Raich, a medical marijuana patient in California, and in an amazing legal contortion declared that medical marijuana legally grown and consumed with no money changing hands in one state is somehow subject to the Interstate Commerce Act. So effectively it gave the DEA license to arrest any sick person using medical marijuana — something they’ve been doing more and more.
Up in Canada, after a several year struggle, the justice minister finally ruled against Renee Bojee. She was the hippy chick who was taking photos of the medical marijuana being grown by Peter McWilliams and Todd McCormick in Los Angeles. So far Peter is dead, effectively killed by the DEA and justice system who wouldn’t let him use marijuana to treat the nausea he got from his HIV medication, with the result that he drowned on his own vomit. Todd was railroaded into five years in prison. Renee faces ten years for doing effectively nothing. She’s trying to stay as a refugee in Canada. Her case is now in the Canadian courts and you can still donate to her legal fund here. The Canadians seem to be bending over backwards under American pressure to support prohibition. They’ve even help arrest Marc Emery, Canada’s leading pro-marijuana legalization activist, and if they succeed in extraditing him no one on the planet is safe form disagreeing with the DEA.
Some people are trying to change all this. Take a look and think of supporting them.
DRCNet produces the Drug War Chronicle, a weekly email newsletter. Subscribe (it’s free), learn, and if you like, donate (as I do).
Marijuana Policy Project is the leading organization fighting for the rights of medical marijuana patients.
Drug Policy Alliance is an umbrella organization working to promote harm reduction in drug policy.
So that’s my word for the end of 2005. Please keep in touch and my best to you for the new year.
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