Tyler's Reporter Blog

Legalizing marijuana?

Friday, August 21st, 2009
Tyler Murphy

Recently I went along with detectives from the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office and participated in busting up a marijuana growing operation in a remote McDonough swamp.

The article attached a lot of feed back, nearly half of it from proponents of legalization who basically claimed that social taboo is the only real reason it’s outlawed.

A number of these responses revolved around the medical purposes of the substance and attacked alcohol use, which is generally accepted to have far more volatile affects on people than a number of illegal drugs, first among them marijuana. Another flawed angle of approach in the argument is that pot is a natural plant of mother earth and therefore less harmful than the non-oraganic drugs.

The most frustrating part of theses complaints is that I agree with their surface values but the line of reasoning is flawed.

Not as bad as alcohol?
Marijuana certainly gets more grief than it probably deserves when pragmatically compared to the social and criminal effects of other drugs, including alcohol- which I’m sorry to say is a drug.

Accept it or not if you drink alcohol you are in fact a legalized drug user. If it wasn’t why would people drink it to intentionally affect their mind’s chemistry provoking feelings of euphoria (aka buzzed) and withdrawal (aka, hangover.) And of course people get addicted to it’s effects and can be permanently damage by long term use. It’s a drug, and most of us are guilty of at least being occasional drug users.

However attacking alcohol doesn’t validate the view of legalizing pot, rather it credits the view of making alcohol illegal.

There is a good point in the “well if alcohol is worse for you and legal why can’t other drugs like marijuana that aren’t as bad for you be legal” argument. It is hard to refute rationally because the world we live in doesn’t make sense.

Some how alcohol made the cut and that’s just the world we live in. It kills countless of people directly and countless more indirectly, inspires all manner of domestic and social violence, it’s survived prohibition and apparently has a thriving base of consumers and powerful business interests aiding it.

The alcohol versus pot social taboo argument gets more sympathy from me than any of the others but it’s sort like complaining that life isn’t fair. Just because alcohol is worse doesn’t make marijuana good.

I need my medicine?
The concepts of medical marijuana are for the most part an utter joke. I know I’ll get a dozen mean spirited comments and testimonials for saying it but save your breath- most of you are uninformed or have ulterior motives.

Unless you’re the one in a million exception to the rule I’m positive modern medicine can deliver you a healthier, more effective alternative to your problem than THC (active ingredient in pot) can offer.

Realistically the argument for marijuana to be legalized for its medical treatment and pain killing ability is more often than not just a vehicle for putting forth an eventual debate for legalizing recreational use. So why not just admit it?

Most people probably figure medical legalization is a step in the right direction, but if there’s no real evidence to suggest it’s any more necessary than legalizing cocaine use for headache relief, then why argue it?

Having a patient testify to the wonderful healing effects of marijuana does not impress me, what matters are the scientific findings produced by medical professionals and pharmacists. The false front only alienates those in the middle of the issue who become disgusted by the such a deception.

It’s natural?
The people who claim that the organic value of pot has value in a critical debate are just nuts. Here are some other organic materials: lava, tobacco, the bubonic plague and poison ivy. All natural world creations so therefore they must not be that bad right? Like I said you people tend to be crazy I have no rational way to talk you out of your insanity. Again I see the same line of reasoning as the alcohol debate in that it cites the “there are worst things out there for you so how bad can it be” belief. There is always something worse, it is not premise for putting forth an active debate to positively convince me to support marijuana legalization.

Things to consider
Here are some good reasons why caution should be exercise in the debate.

The versatile nature of the plant makes it very easy for just about anyone to cultivate it leading to very challenging methods of control even in a legal system.

Legalizing a new recreational drug will have profound and unknown economic and social effects on our society.

Legalizing a formerly illegal drug is a dangerous precedent to set and may become a doorway for others to push agendas to legalize even more dangerous drugs.

We have alcohol, do we really need to bring another mind affecting substance into public acceptance? After all marijuana is a drug. A user will not be as healthy as a non-user and will need additional medical care over a life time.

Marijuana is a mind effecting drug and any substance that allows people to escape reality has the potential to become an addiction. If legalized more people will become addicted, it is inevitable.

Pot like any drug distracts people from real life, which is fine unless used too often. People who are high tend to be content just being high and do little to expand their mind. One day people who smoke too much might wake up and find they aren’t good at anything because they never bothered to get out and do something.

Conclusion
Having said all that I personally don’t see why the drug needs to remain illegal.

From what I’ve seen personally, professionally and academically the drug does not seem to strip a person’s sensibilities as quickly or as potently as other mind effecting drugs, legal or otherwise.

I don’t know of many marijuana generated aggressions such as fights, rapes or other out of control emotional incidents. It seems to be a victimless crime in many cases and rarely a catalyst to causing a danger to the community. However the drug is often used in combination with other drugs, like alcohol, so getting straight answers on the effects of a single drug in society can be difficult.

The concerns surrounding marijuana often seem to focus on those who over abuse the substance, symbolizing the stereotypical burned out, good for nothing, tie-dye wearing stoner. To me that’s like taking a DWI convicted, wife beating, alcoholic and saying everyone who drinks will become one.

The argument surrounding the substance focuses more on the individuals ability use the drug responsibly. This is the debate with any drug.

Given the lax laws regulating minor use and the increasing public acceptance of the drug I don’t see why we just don’t start regulating it. There is definitely a line to be drawn between marijuana use and the use of more dangerous and addicting drugs such as cocaine, meth and ecstasy.

I’m just not sure where that line should be drawn.

Even though I believe in respecting the rights of people to make their own choices with the drug, promoting marijuana or any drug use is certainly not good for our community, no matter how you argue it. That’s a fact.

In debating this issue of personal choice versus public well being we need to ensure the argument does not appear to encourage younger generations into accepting common marijuana use any more than we’d want them embrace abusing alcohol.

I do believe however it is a discussion deserving the merit of further debate.

Roll the hanging dice

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

My friend asked me yesterday about why I would hang a pair of gaudy black dice from my rear view-mirror. I’ve heard it all before, they’re totally lame, technically illegal and a minor safety hazard. Bla, bla, bla.

I told her they’re my good luck charm. She laughed and mocked my superstitious reply. But it’s not superstition that keeps the dice hanging but rather their power of reminder.

You see I’ve covered a number of accidents in my time at the Evening Sun, dozens, a handful of them fatal, and although sometimes the person at fault suffered the shorter end of the stick the dice remind me of the other person. The one who didn’t do anything wrong except get out of bed that morning.

I’ve been keenly reminded of the fact in recent weeks as a number of fatal accidents have occurred and a close co-worker was struck down by such random circumstance. These recent incidents didn’t involve any choice by those killed or hurt in them. No prior decisions or precautions made before those moments mattered, fate just reached out and snatched at an innocent. It is an undeniable and unfortunate part of life sometimes.

The statistics kept by the federal Department of Transportation show that the most dangerous activity the average American partakes in on a daily basis is climbing into a motor vehicle. 115 people are killed each day, that’s one person every 13 minutes. Of those only two thirds involve the driver being killed the rest are pedestrians, passengers and other non-driver victims.

I had a friend once who frequently rode a motorcycle and his favorite saying was “You can’t live life in constant fear of random circumstance.” He’s right you can’t, but you can be constantly aware of the aspect. Maybe it’ll help maybe it won’t.

Every time I climb into my car I glance at the dice and I think about those odds and I remember the accidents I’ve witnessed. Cars crumpled like aluminum foil and bodies covered in white sheets on stretchers with blood still seeping to the surface. I’ve talked to bereaved family members and grim emergency workers-it’s left an impression.

My good luck charm represents random circumstance. We all roll the dice when we get in the driver’s seat no matter who you are. Sometimes just knowing the odds though might keep them from being so fixed.

A bitter first taste

Friday, July 24th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

So after spending about 20 hours this week collecting court documentation, off and on the record comments, contacting family members, friends, attorney’s and police I was shocked this morning to discover the Daily Star had the article in their newspaper first.

The alleged murderer of William Lee, Richard Babcock, was indicted Wednesday and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it was going to happen before it did, and that I wasn’t aware that it had. The problem is that the court sealed the indictment which means no one can discuss the case until the court unseals it.

I can’t explain the pain of writing a grand jury story the following day over grand larceny and possession charges knowing there was a sealed murder indictment I couldn’t mention.

This morning I was horrified, thinking that I some how screwed up and missed some public access web page tangled somewhere in the state police’s site. Quickly that feeling faded however and was replaced by a getting screwed feeling instead.

In preparing to have the defendant appear in court for the case the New York State Police prepared a document that including the original charges they had intended on arresting Babcock for and forwarded it the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office via their computer system.

Babcock was not arrested by the State Police as was reported. The reason the case was sealed was specifically because he had not been notified or arrested prior to his court appearance Friday morning when the judge delivered the document to his public defender.

So how did the competitor beat us to the punch? Incompetence. Not theirs obviously. Apparently a trooper in the local Oneonta barracks made an human error. He found the document sent to the sheriff’s office on the computer and thought it was a public police blotter to be released. He then handed it over to the Star.

I don’t blame them of course I would’ve run the story in a heartbeat. I can blame the New York State Police though for unofficially unsealing a grand jury indictment before the supreme court did.

It was a single error by a single individual and his commanding officer promptly called our office this morning to offer an explanation and an apology after we sent him an e-mail of complaint over the issue.

Still, it’s hard not to feel bitter, especially since we contacted the state police the same day the Star did but was told there was no information, a credit to the personnel at the Sidney barracks I suppose. But burning bridges in this trade only leaves you stranded and besides it’s professionally petty, so I’m over it.

A lengthy article appears in the Evening Sun today that bear most of the fruits from my week’s labors, hopefully it will still satisfy our readers palette with lots of juicy details even through for some it won’t be their first taste.

http://www.evesun.com/news/stories/2009-07-24/7514/Man-indicted-in-Lee-murder/

Jackson, Fawcett memories

Friday, June 26th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

So unless you haven’t seen a TV, heard a radio, or had access to the Internet in the last 24 hours then you’ve probably encountered the media splurge of the latest sensational celebrity death. Pop star Michael Jackson and pin up Farrah Fawcett both died yesterday.

As we finished up our deadline work this morning I thought just about everyone had seen enough of the stories, having placed a number of AP articles in the paper and then navigating through most of the major news network sites this morning, who wouldn’t be?

I was surprised to see the entire office spring into an usually intense water cooler discussion, as co-workers and interns came out from their desks or peeked over their cubicles, to put in the two cents over what they remembered. I couldn’t resist putting in my own.

I was surprise to find such a strong following of Jackson lovers. He was a little before my time and I’m starting to wonder if maybe I haven’t given the man enough credit.

For the my part I met Jackson in the early 90’s and later. If you’re familiar with the singer’s history I don’t think you’ call it his best of times. Pedophile allegations, outdated music, and a freaky personal appearance, was all I absorbed unfortunately.

As for Farah I can’t say I remember much more than she was on the cover of one of my first playboy magazines, which I swiped it from an inattentive relative in junior high.

It was strange gauging the different memories and opinions of people born over the last five decades and how the media has impacted an iconic person’s legacy, depending on which generation they grew up in. Something’s are forgotten and others over exaggerated.

The thriller video however is timeless.

I think it’s a good thing to tell the brighter side of a person after they pass on and I’m sure in the pending, week long, media blitz to follow will beat every horse in the herd to death before it’s over.

Regardless of how anyone perceived them, you have to give credit to the sheer volume of gossip, sensationalism and controversy stimulated by their lives and deaths.

RIP

1.9 million dollar fine for a $24 crime

Friday, June 19th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

I don’t even know where to begin. How about a quote from a personal inspiration of mine, Martin Luther King Jr.

“How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”

Now I know Dr. King was talking about the unjust laws of civil segregation but I bet he’d be the first to recognize that the injustice of a punishment can far exceed a the crime’s.

Thursday a federal judge jury fined a 32-year-old Minnesota woman $1.9 million for downloading 24 songs worth 99 cents a piece from the internet, illegally.

The woman has four children and a husband. Without a doubt their financial lives are ruined. Her spouse will be equally affect financially, the children’s futures now lost, they will spend the rest of their lives paying it off.

Shame on the jury for being lulled into such a complacent state to find any conceivable way to go along with such a blatant injustice. No matter what direction they received from the judge or the law they shouldn’t have agreed to the sentence.

The corporate monsters that were no doubt instrumental in this case are not interest in recouping the money but rather sending the headline message to all those out there still downloading songs at this woman’s, and her family’s, expense.

The verdict is more criminal than the crime ever was. I’d encourage everyone to ignore these laws and continue downloading whatever music they want in protest to the verdict.

These laws designed to halt the large commercial copyright infringements of corrupt distributors and should not have been turned so viciously against a single individual consumer using the illegal site for recreational purposes. She was not even turning a profit at the artist’s expense.

That’d be like charging people who litter $500,000 fines for dropping a cigarette bud and blaming them for the effects of global warming. Not that I disagree with making littering illegal, in fact I despise litters but one can’t ignore the drastically exaggerated punishment and the wrongfully placed blame being laid on a single person playing such a small role in the grand scheme of its deterioration. The same is true with the average person seeking downloads for music. There is a level of culpability here just not to the tune of 1.9 million dollars.

Just because there may be a legal argument or law to condone chopping off a person’s hand for stealing a piece of bread doesn’t mean it’s justice.

For more about this story cut and paste these links into your web browser

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/business/media/19music.html?ref=media

or

http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/06/18/minnesota.music.download.fine/index.html

Sheriff, passing of the guard?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Tyler Murphy

With the decision of Steven Dutcher not to run for Chenango County Sheriff there are few others on the “short list” and of those few I’ve spoken with in private corners, none seem very enthusiastic about the prospect of running.

Require by the federal Hatch Act, all candidates would have to abandoned their current jobs to run in an election.

Many do not enjoy the prospect of leaving their positions and currently enjoy their law enforcement roles. Although argumentative, the office of sheriff is also more of a political role as it is any other.

I hate a democracy which functions on a “lack of options” algorithm. So as it has looked for nearly a decade now the old guard is simply going to appoint its next representative.

Undersheriff Ernest Cutting is an incredible candidate for the office, with the backing of the republican party, his administrative experience and family roots in the local community, it is difficult to imagine a more intimidating opponent.

Dutcher is adored by his local constituents and seen as a popular, personal public figure by those who know him. His apprehension over leaving the Greene Police Chief’s post, which he has helped to define, is a serious political sacrifice for just for an opportunity to run. His decision not too is an understandable to say the least.

After the last round of local elections, two years ago, both the Sheriff, DA and a number of other incumbents ran totally unopposed.

I’d just like to see more political options for the voters in the area, not because I ‘d like to replace our current leaders, but I like the idea of keeping those in power on their toes.

Know your enemy

Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

I do believe that there are people you can look in the eye and based on what they’ve chosen to stand for you can call them mortal enemies.

One of those enemies are religiously based militants who kill in the name of their god known as fundamentalists.

The headline rise in the Af-Pak (Afghanistan Pakistan) conflicts involving the Taliban and al-Qaeda left me pondering the type of enemy we are facing and how we should handle them.

Meeting people in a politically hostile environment, such as during conflict and in war time, is sort of like walking into a room with two people carrying loaded guns. Sometimes it’s pointed at you and sometimes you may have to point yours at someone else. I believe honest and productive dialogue is certainly preferable to violence.

Through such discussion the parties might even learn to lower their threats and weapons. However I don’t believe in trusting anyone enough to put the gun down completely. Although I believe that life and peace are important parts of a negotiation they are not the sole priorities.

It’s not so much as believing that their are things worth dying for but rather that there are things worth fighting for.

Some acts demand necessary and violent reactions out of sheer survival. In case of nations it often means the survival of a principle or a material gain. Deciding what principles to spend lives on isn’t easy but among them are the ones forming the foundation of our democracy and the same ones that protect our way of life.

They include accepting diversity let it be cultural, religious, ethic or gender based, all should be respected so far as they do not disrupt or infringe on the rights of others. Another is judicial equity, no matter your rank, status or wealth all people should be subject to the same rule of law and entitled to the same civil rights.

A third cause worth human life is maintaining a free, rational society based on intellectual debate, disagreement and practical compromise.
Although there may be others these three should certainly be on any list.
These principles are where the confrontational lines between republic and fundamentalism are often drawn in blood.

In particular Islamic Fundamentalism. A theocratic system of government solely based on the strict interpretation of a religious document, in the case of Islam, the Koran. A book not too unlike the old Christian Testaments, written thousands of years ago and ripe with examples of violence, bigotry and slavery.
Fundamentalism interprets the text literally, on a level unparalleled in American society.

To put it in perspective this would be like Christians taking the old Testament recommendations to an extreme by lynching gay couples in the street and stoning women who’ve had sex out of wedlock to death. Some might encourage such attitudes on talk radio programs but for the most part it is all bark and no bite in civilized society.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda are groups actively involved in spreading this ultra-conservative belief through violence. After September 11, 2002 it’s easy for anyone to hate such foes but in time that trauma may pass.

We should not forget where the real heart of evil beats, and that it is intertwined with the beliefs of Islamic Fundamentalist.

Notions of extreme sexism, that include the torture and mutilation of woman for offense as mundane as traveling without a man’s permission. Their strict adherence of education reaches no scope beyond the words found in the Koran, actively destroying any alternative views, essentially promoting blind faith and ignorance. There is no organization on earth farther from our way of life, nor more dangerous to it.

Islamic Fundamentalism places a cheap value on human life and they are not big fans of compromise or social progress. They do believe in spreading their word of god and influence however. They have no qualms with utilizing suicide bombers so just imagine what they might do with a nuclear arsenal.

Can you imagine any first world nation operating more belligerently? Even if America were to decide not to be enemies with such cultures they would still decide to be ours, they have too because we threatening everything they stand for. They also threaten everything we stand for.

So if there must be a fight before you cast your leverage one way or the other take a long hard look into the eye of the enemy and ask yourself if you could ever live in a community with such a person. Could you stand by and witness such abuses all in the name of cultural tolerance. I would rather fight.

Getting your picture in the paper

Friday, May 1st, 2009
Tyler Murphy

This morning I stepped into the office and one of the first things I found was a fax with a note scribbled on it.

It asked if someone could come to Smyrna and take a picture of its local residents participating in the Relay for Life event, Paint the Town Purple. It’s not that uncommon.

Often the Evening Sun receives requests from a variety of people seeking our photography skills. I appreciated the interest but the camera wasn’t invented yesterday. Just about everyone I know has a digital camera and an e-mail so why not take a picture and send it into the Newspaper.

We’d love to go and do it all ourselves but realistically it just isn’t possible. So grab your camera, snap a picture, paste it into an e-mail and then send it to us.

We’ll be grateful and trust me you’ll be drastically increasing your odds of getting some coverage in the local paper. It’s a good idea to include not just a picture but a brief description of what the picture is, including the people who are in it, when it was taken, and why.

Also a contact number would be great. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to get an e-mail seeking our services that’s void of a name or phone number.

Just some helpful inside Newsroom hints.

Calling it your job don’t make it right

Friday, April 17th, 2009
Tyler Murphy

So President Barack Obama released the Bush administration’s dirty little torture secrets Thursday. In the memos CIA operatives received direction from the Office of United States President to ignore standing domestic and international law in violating the most fundamental human rights of prisoners.

The document goes as far to authorize the threatening of prisoners’ families in order to make suspects comply with their interrogators demands.

Obama also released Thursday that he would not seek the prosecution of CIA members who followed these directives.

Ironically this is going on while in an unrelated case the United States is working to extradite a suspected Nazis prison guard for crimes he allegedly committed 66 years earlier. Couldn’t one argue that he was just following directives too?

You can and should hold people accountable for their actions. Soldiers and secret agents are caught in a tough spot when it comes to following immoral orders but honestly I have little sympathy for them. A human being is not a machine and there are always options. Loyalty is often confused with integrity but they’re not the same thing.

I do understand the line of thinking in moving forward and focusing on those creating illicit policy rather than those who enforced it. In that regard I give Obama great credit because although he offered to spare the torturers he hinted that the attorney general would looking into those who implemented the policies.

I despise all the people who were directly involved in making these shameful acts a part of my country’s history. CIA operatives, U. S. soldiers, even past presidents, any and all who conspired to torture and kill another person, without trial or charge, are traitors everything America stands for. National extremism and sanctified violations of civil rights are as dangerous to the people of this country as any act of international and domestic terrorism.

One of my favorite movies Paul Newman said it best in ‘Cool Hand Luke.”

In the movie Luke returns home after fighting heroically in World War II and his free spirited nature lands him in prison. While there he suffers abuse at the heavy hands of the conservative prison administrators.

As he’s being moved to solitary confinement a likable character playing a guard turns to Luke and says, “Sorry, Luke. I’m just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that.”

Luke: “Nah… calling it your job don’t make it right, Boss.”

A day to do something else

Friday, April 3rd, 2009
Tyler Murphy

In the last three days we’ve experienced almost every possible weather pattern New York State has to offer. Yesterday’s temperature rose enough that you could bask in the sun without a jacket and feel enveloped by it’s warmth. Today we have the miserable, it’s raining- it just stooped raining- oh wait it’s raining again, kind of day. Tomorrow or later this weekend meteorologist are actually saying snowfall may be in our midst once again.

I love spring, as a matter of fact it’s my favorite season. The warming days that smell of wet earth and bright green budding life constantly beckon me to appreciate mother nature’s changing beauty. The down side are the times where mother nature has her throes of transition and regression like that past few days. Still, I appreciate the dark dreary days of sogginess because they ease my nagging conscious. It’s OK to stay inside with the girlfriend all day or waste my the hours in front of the boob tube. How can you feel guilty, I mean just look at how miserable it is outside.

So cheers to days like today which on the surface seem grim. Grab a good book, movie or whatever thing you had promised yourself you do and enjoy it because in all likelihood there isn’t anything better to do.