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Archive for October, 2011

Some Ecards Slaps Netflix, Google Plus for Halloween

October 31st, 2011 No comments

Leave it to the snarky kids over at Some Ecards to lay a beatdown on Google Plus and Netflix for Halloween. Yes, they have more.

Foreclosure Factory Halloween Pics Feature Costumes Mocking the Homeless

October 30th, 2011 2 comments

As you’re trying to decide whether to wear that pimp costume this Halloween, be an “Indian brave,” a Bangkok prostitute or just push it balls-to-the-wall and be a pregnant streetwalking trailer park slut, let’s solemnly consider the cautionary tale offered by allegedly criminal Buffalo law firm of Steven J. Baum, which “serves the default industry.”

That is to say, Baum specializes in foreclosures.

Last fall, as the financial crises deepened and more and more families were ejected from their homes by the likes of Baum, the firm threw a Halloween bash in which employees dressed up as homeless people, complete with shopping carts and signs advertising their “excuses” as to why they shouldn’t be foreclosed on.

Hilarious, huh? I know, I laughed so hard I think I urinated all over myself, or maybe that was just the guy who lives in the alley near my apartment building, trying to take a whiz in public without getting targeted by police snipers! Well, never you worry, I (allegedly) suspect that the Baum firm had its share of white-trash debutantes, honkeys in blackface and geisha girls as well as their LOLZY renditions of pathetic families with small children forced to camp on the sidewalk because of Baum’s allegedly predatory foreclosure practices.

I just hope between slugging back non-biodegradable plastic cups of single-malt Scotch and munching on $40 plates of orange-and-black cookies, puff-pastry hors d’oeuvres and (allegedly) fridge-scented canapes, the firm’s employees had a chance to congratulate each other for not being homeless! I mean, they say that most families in America are just one paycheck away from homelesness, but you know what I think? I think any family that lets itself get foreclosed on by an (allegedly) fast-talking law firm that (allegedly) doesn’t give a shit about morals or ethics is sort of like a protester in Bahrain: fucked, sure, but thank God it’s not us!! I love my job, don’t you?!?!?

Well, since the we-own-houses, we-have-jobs, we’re-oh-so-special club is even smaller this year than last, nobody seems to have a sense of humor anymore.

It seems like America might be, you know, newly sensitive to the plight of the homeless, some of whom got that way through the tireless social activism of the Steven J. Baum Law Firm.

That’s why Baum sure is lucky that nobody took any incriminating pictures last year, aren’t they? I mean…those pics could really wipe a turd on those crab cakes they’re (allegedly) planning to serve at this year’s party, couldn’t they — if, say, they were distributed by a former employee and published in the New York Times, right? Am I right?

You’re right! Or rather, Joe Nocera is right:

Let me describe a few of the photos. In one, two Baum employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a bottle of liquor. The other has a sign around her neck that reads: “3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.” My source said that “I was never served” is meant to mock “the typical excuse” of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure proceeding.

A second picture shows a coffin with a picture of a woman whose eyes have been cut out. A sign on the coffin reads: “Rest in Peace. Crazy Susie.” The reference is to Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who had filed a class-action suit against Steven J. Baum — and had posted a YouTube video denouncing the firm’s foreclosure practices. “She was a thorn in their side,” said my source.

A third photograph shows a corner of Baum’s office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes. Another shows a sign that reads, “Baum Estates” — needless to say, it’s also full of foreclosed houses. Most of the other pictures show either mock homeless camps or mock foreclosure signs — or both. My source told me that not every Baum department used the party to make fun of the troubled homeowners they made their living suing. But some clearly did. The adjective she’d used when she sent them to me — “appalling” — struck me as exactly right.

These pictures are hardly the first piece of evidence that the Baum firm treats homeowners shabbily — or that it uses dubious legal practices to do so. It is under investigation by the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. It recently agreed to pay $2 million to resolve an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether the firm had “filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments in the state and federal courts in New York.” (In the press release announcing the settlement, Baum acknowledged only that “it occasionally made inadvertent errors.”)
[Link.]

My fellow Americans, take a moment to shed a tear for the poor, poor hardworking souls of the Steven J. Baum firm in Buffalo, New York. They’ve had a rough year, those (allegedly) hardworking Americans who, between trips to the water cooler and lengthy tangles with McDonald’s-fueled bowel obstructions in the toilet stalls while reading Better Homes and Gardens, ruin other peoples’ lives and then laugh their asses off about it.

These are the hardworking Americans that the likes of Occupy Wall Street (allegedly) want to put out of work.

And the Big Man himself knows his babies did a bad bad thing, according to The Buffalo News:

The head of the firm, Steven J. Baum, said in a statement to The Buffalo News on Saturday that the photos “obviously were in poor taste.”

“On behalf of the firm, I sincerely apologize for what happened last year at our Halloween party,” he said.

Baum said the firm had its Halloween party last week at its various locations, “and we reiterated our company policy as it pertains to wearing appropriate costumes. No one is permitted to wear a costume that could be interpreted as being offensive.”

Baum said this year’s party raised money for the American Red Cross, and he mentioned other fundraising efforts his firm is involved in.

The ex-employee told Nocera that not all Baum departments used the 2010 party to mock homeowners facing foreclosure.

[Link.]

So have some pity on Mr. Baum’s employees…because times are tough! Money is tight! And everywhere, people are cutting back on expenses! That might even include a few law firm employees, right?

So is it too much to hope that some of Baum’s employees might have saved their costumes from last year, and recycled them for this year’s second-verse-same-as-the-first? I mean, they can’t all have been flush enough to afford whole new costumes as suicide bombers and gangsta rappers, right? Is it too much to hope that there was a hobo or two, and maybe a one-legged Iraq vet with flesh-eating bacteria, and a crying tear-gassed Oakland protester, and maybe a bankruptcy victim dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound (hilarious!) at Baum’s party this year?

And that even now, those photos might be winging their way to the likes of Mr. Nocera at the New York Times?

If so, I’d just hate to see those hardworking foreclosure commandos, you know, lose their jobs over it or anything.

Then they might have to recycle those costumes for use in the real world.

And my guess is…it wouldn’t seem very funny.

Protesters Alert: I’m Getting Arrested Ap for Android

October 27th, 2011 1 comment

In the wake of the sickening violence in Oakland, protesters may worry they run the risk of a hell of a lot worse than just being arrested. But if you’re someplace like, say, my town, Sacramento, where the D.A. refused to prosecute Occupy Sacramento protesters so the City Attorney, in an unprecedented action, decided to prosecute anyway, well, then…you might actually get taken to the slammer rather than, oh, say, shot in the f*$@$@*ing head. Woe is you, but remember, freedom’s only free if you’re a stockbroker.

That’s when you’ll need I’m Getting Arrested.

Here’s how it works: Before you go to a protest, you program your Android smartphone with the cell phone numbers of your contacts — or, presumably, a Tweet-enabled email address or your Tumbelog. Just before the cuffs go on, you hit the panic button on your I’m Getting Arrested ap:

Alert your lawyer, loved ones, etc … that you are being arrested with a click.

I’m Getting Arrested enables anyone, with one click, to broadcast a custom message to SMS numbers in the event they are arrested.

Very easy to setup and operate. Instructions under help menu.

Inspired by a real Occupy Wall Street incident. Free to the other 99%.

[Link.]

Yes, it’s released with the Occupy Wall Street in mind, but it can go a lot further than that. It currently supports Arabic, Basque, Catalan, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish, and the developers say they’re seeking volunteers to translate it into other languages.

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Prototype Dirigible Causes Another UFO Panic in China

October 24th, 2011 No comments

Last week, a remote controlled lighter-than-air craft careened out of control and drifted hundreds of miles across China, causing a widespread UFO scare. The UK’s Daily Star said on the 19th of October:

The remote control prototype finally landed hundreds of miles off target in a paddy field in Hauyan village, Shandong province, eastern China, amid baffled farmers.

“We had many calls along its route from people wondering what it was. Most thought it was a UFO of some sort until it landed and we could identify it,” said a police spokesman.

A spokesman for Datian Aviation said: “We apologise for any inconvenience but the airship is completely harmless. It just flew out of range of the remote control unit.”

[Link.]

If you ask me, China seems to have been seeing an uptick in UFO reports, which I would guess probably guess is selector bias (mine) or is due to greater availability of communication devices.

Nonetheless, who can forget the cool photo from China Daily of a UFO over Hangzhou airport? Hangzhou is about two hours from Shanghai, and the sighting occurred last year — in July, 2010. As Zimbio.com described the events:

On Wednesday evening, twinkling lights spotted near the airport caused air traffic controllers to scramble to move air traffic to other locations. The lights were visible to many in the area, but speculation as to the culprit has focused on (mostly) earthly culprits. China Daily News says an unnamed source close to the happening claims the aircraft was tied to military use.

Others believe it may have been a private craft, and want whoever was responsible for its disruptive flight held responsible for revenues lost by airlines.

A picture of the UFO over China was published on chinadaily.com that clearly shows an object with red running lights and light that seems to emanate from the bottom of the craft. The light could be attributable to a phenomenon where high-flying craft are still being doused in daylight over an otherwise dark area about an hour after sunset.

[Link.]

This looks, to me, like a shot taken at too slow a shutter speed of a plane with running lights. But I still think it looks cool. Almost as cool as the photo of the remote-controlled airship.

However, whatever I think about the photo, it’s unlikely that the 2010 photo is of a commercial flight, since it reportedly diverted 18 flights and closed the whole airport for almost an hour, from 8:45pm to 9:41pm local time.

The 2010 UFO was probably a private plane. If it was military after all, it’s likely not some bad-ass stealth fighter, but a cargo or observation plane that went off course because of faulty equipment. Here’s what China Daily said about it at the time:

“No conclusion has yet been drawn,” Wang Jian, head of air traffic control with the Zhejiang branch of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.

Some media have speculated the UFO might be a private aircraft, based on the increasing number of privately-owned aircraft in Zhejiang province.

But Wang said the possibility it was a private plane was “just a guess.”…It was the first time an airport in China has been shut down on such short notice due to a UFO, said a staff member with the CAAC of East China, who declined to be named.

“We should first find out how the owner got the approval to fly the object,” said the staff member, adding “even a fire balloon needs to get the authority’s permission before lifting off.”

The twinkling object could have been a light below the horizon reflecting on an airplane flying very high, given good visibility in the sky, said Zhu Dayi, who works at the Shanghai Observatory, adding such phenomena usually happen around an hour after sunset.

“If the speed of the twinkling object is extremely high, it could be a military aircraft,” he said, “But no conclusion can be drawn now, as the information is limited.”

According to airport staff, it is still not clear which authorities should be held responsible for dereliction of duty – if there were any. The CAAC of East China and the airport divide their areas of responsibilities according to the craft’s altitude.

As to who should pay for losses to the airline companies whose flights were diverted, an industry insider said those costs should be borne by the owner of the unidentified object.

[Link.]

Stories and uploaded videos about the July, 2010 UFO were ubiquitous for a while. Here’s one from ABC News, for instance. However, some YouTube videos — like many uploads about UFOs — are nothing more than video taken of different photos, like this one. Then there’s this one, which claims to be of the same UFO, but doesn’t look like it to me — it looks like a plain flying through slightly cloudy conditions, leaving a contrail.

There was another UFO spotted in October of 2010, which closed Batou airport in Inner Mongolia. Then the UFOs struck again in August of this year in Chongqking (Chungking), which Fox News reported on. This video is just a shot of still images from a Chinese news source about the August sighting, with Google translation. As per usual, decent information is usually pretty disappointing — no little green men, tripods, or city-sized flying saucers.

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Deadly Russian Drug “Krokodil” Hits Germany’s Streets

October 21st, 2011 1 comment

It might sound like a William Gibson invention, but the street drug “Krokodil” just a toxic substance made from existing drugs…one that appears to cause ghoulish effects that make the most hopped-up anti-drug urban legends in the States sound like cakewalks. Worldcrunch.com calls the Russian substance a “designer drug,” but it’s technically something entirely different. A “designer drug” is a drug specifically invented to bypass drug laws that haven’t caught up with it yet. Designer drugs usually mimic similar substances that are already illegal.

Krokodil, on the other hand, does not sound like it’s a a designer drug — it’s described by Wikipedia as desomorphine, made from codeine and…STUFF. Weird stuff. Awful stuff. Dangerous stuff. It’s sold as a heroin substitute — which seems bizarre to me, since in California not long ago, heroin could sometimes be cheaper than weed. Europe, however, has often seen heroin prices climb much, much higher than the United States.

Krokodil has now been reported in Germany, and as Worldcrunch puts it — re-reporting an article in German — it’s a serious menace:

Codeine, benzine, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid and red phosphorus – that’s what goes into “Krokodil,” a drug that originated in Russia and is believed to have now hit Western Europe. In Germany, workers in drug cafés have reported seeing “disastrous skin conditions and damage to soft tissue” among Krokodil users.

Police in Frankfurt and Bochum have so far been unable to confirm the presence of the drug, but experts say that the physical reactions observed in certain addicts indicate that they are caused by the drug.

…In Russia, cough medicine and headache medication containing codeine can be bought without a prescription, allowing addicts to mix the drug cocktail themselves.

The name crocodile is believed to be derived from the infections around the injection areas where the skin turns green and dies. The scaly green condition spreads to the rest of the body and the toxic drug also [affects] bone tissue, eating away at users from the inside. Amputations are sometimes necessary, but users usually don’t live for more than two to three years after starting to use this highly addictive drug.

Use of the drug is growing in Russia because it is cheap: one dose costs about 5 euros (as opposed to 50 euros for heroin), but the resulting euphoria is similar to that experienced by heroin users. Many heroin addicts who can no longer afford that drug switch over to “Krokodil,” even though the effects last for less than two hours.

[Link.]

You can read a Google Translation of the original German-language article here, and Time had a piece on it back in June. Time also uses the term designer drug to describe Krokodil. Regardless of whether you read either article, I strongly caution you not to do an image search for Krokodil — what you get is an avalanche of rotted-away limbs on people who can’t be much older than twenty-five…with bones exposed. Whether there are photo hoaxes involved I don’t know — but it’s not one source; its many. Many, many. At first glance it appears real, and what gets seen with image searches like this can’t be unseen. The drug appears to produce what looks like a one-stop dermatological pathology textbook and even strong stomachs are advised to stay away. It makes bath salts look like…bath salts.

The misuse of the term “designer drug,” incidentally, is potentially dangerous. Krokodil is poison, pure and simple — a drug cut with chemicals that fuck you up. There’s nothing “designer” about it. That term “designer drug” has a certain cache, and a sense of romance that’s scary enough when you use it for drugs it applies to. I don’t particularly like the term because it sounds like an ’80s fantasy…not the procedure of putting weird, untested chemicals in your body in the hopes of getting high.

The currently most common example of a “real” designer drug — one designed specifically to circumvent drug laws — is the exceedingly dangerous drug known as bath salts, which exploded in the southern Midwest earlier this year — while the local press in those regions went nuts, spreading fear and unsubstantiated horror stories without ever seeming to know much about street drugs, how they’re proliferated, what the effects are or how drug laws are (or should be) enforced.

Bath Salts has therefore been the source of much hysteria in the media without many critical questions being asked — and plenty of law enforcement interest, but little effective legislative or regulatory action that means anything. Bath salts mimics the action of methamphetamine, but it is still sold over the counter in some states, as well as over the internet. Unfortunately, it appears to be far more unpredictable and impure even than street-level meth.

I first reported on bath salts in February, and it’s has continued to sweep the nation without any significant Federal action — despite the fact that the DEA announced an “emergency ban” on bath salts that was supposed to take effect this month. Ohio just instituted a bath salts ban, and other states are in the queue, but the DEA has continued to be somewhat opaque about its real intentions regarding bath salts.

Regardless of what the DEA does with bath salts, I sure as hell hope Krokodil doesn’t cross the pond.

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Polynesian Tourist Cannibal Death Claim: Racist or Real?

October 21st, 2011 No comments

Image from Survival International.

Forty-year-old German yachtsman Stefan Ramin disappeared in September while on Nuka Hiva, a remote tropical island in French Polynesia. After charred bones and teeth were found on the island, the press is awash with reports that Ramin was eaten by cannibals. Survival International, the chief global advocacy group for tribal peoples, says the accusation is fueled by racism.

The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Fox News, The Sun,  and Australia’s The Independent are all on the cannibal holocaust bandwagon, with another Sun story quoting multiple German professors with Lovecraftian relish:

Stefan Ramin, 40, may have been killed in a ritual common on the island of Nuku Hima 250 years ago. His remains were found around the ashes of a cooking fire.

Prof Annerose Menninger, of Munich University, said he was perhaps first slaughtered to “honour” the offering to a god.

Cannibal expert Dr Gundolf Krüger admitted: “Polynesians are now Christian and literate, therefore pious and educated. But it is entirely possible that the criminal was led by old rituals into this crime.”

Yes, that’s really what the UK press is quoting. “Christian and literate, therefore pious and educated.” (emphasis mine). Whatever happened to Herr Ramin, Herr Professor Krüger sounds like he needs a less in cause and effect at the very least, and maybe a slap in the face or two. Here’s more:

Meanwhile, reporters from Germany who reached the island said authorities were “certain he was killed and eaten”.

Guide Henri Haiti, 31, is being hunted in connection with round-the-world sailor Stefan’s death.

Helicopters with heat-seeking radar and sniffer dogs yesterday joined the search for Haiti.

But Polynesian public prosecutor Jose Thorel, under pressure to protect tourism, said: “There’s no evidence of cannibalism.”

[Link.]

Incidentally, from what I see the connection between Haiti and the “ritual,” if one existed (which seems at best meagerly supported at this point) is so far highly questionable. As in most cases of Western tourists disappearing, “authorities” — agencies that are not specifically named — are enlisted as experts to blame someone well before any charges have even been filed, let alone the case remanded to a court of law. Right now Haiti is a person of interest, and that may be all he ever ends up being — especially if the cannibalism claims turn out to be as thin as the UK press is making them sound, since hysteria is more likely to occur in cases where the documented wrongdoing is murky. If it turns out Haiti didn’t do a damn thing — and even if it turns out that there was no cannibalism — Haiti’s career as a guide is over.

I can already hear the resounding “Who cares!” coming from white people worldwide — white people who think it’s the right of any off-pink “citizen of the world” to go traipsing around island paradises taking shits in the underbrush, as long as he or she has the muh-muh-muh-money.

Oh, I’m sorry, am I jumping the gun here? For what it’s worth, I would never blame Ramin for what might have happened to him; not when there’s next to no information whatsoever establishing what really happened, why it happened, and what or who was or was not eaten. But as for Haiti, he doesn’t get the chance to kick back in California and snark at the unnamed “authorities” who have dogs out sniffing for him. His career is over, whether he did or didn’t do a damn thing. It’s not clear whether Haiti might have been careless, stupid, incompetent, or corrupt — or if he’s just been damned unlucky. But having hired guides in developing countries, I can tell you firsthand: it’s possible that the man he was guiding (Ramin) was any or all of those things. But we don’t know that yet. The facts are far too unclear to say what happened — but whatever the outcome of the investigation, Mr. Haiti is fucked. It almost makes me hope he really is a cannibal, because otherwise this’ll be another case of repulsive colonial malfeasance. Yet another of the global poor singled out so The Daily Mail can have a garish headline.

Anyway, the aforementioned Survival International is dedicated to the rights of tribal peoples, including the dangerous and difficult task of advocating for the world’s uncontacted tribes, isolated peoples and ethnicities and lifestyles threatened with extinction. Here’s what Survival International had to say about it yesterday (after almost a week or so of Western-press feeding frenzy over the reports):

Survival International has lodged a formal complaint with authorities in the UK over the ‘highly offensive and ludicrous’ claims in the world’s press that a German tourist missing in the South Pacific has been ‘eaten by cannibals.’

In a letter to British regulator the Press Complaints Commission, Survival suggested that those newspapers that have described the indigenous people of the Pacific as ‘cannibals’ are promoting ‘a false and offensive notion that tribal people are primitive savages.’

At the same time, tribal people around the world have reacted with dismay to the reports. Benny Wenda, a Papuan man from the Lani tribe, said, ‘’We’re sick and tired of these stories. The reason they keep using the word ‘cannibal’ about us is because they think we’re savages. It’s like calling Germans today Nazis because of their past, or Britain a land where witches are burned at the stake, of child slavery and public executions. It’s just lazy, racist journalism.’

Deborah Kimitete, deputy mayor of Nuku Hiva island where the alleged murder took place, told the BBC , ‘We are very hurt by these accusations of cannibalism, which are completely false…. I don’t know why they talk about cannibalism, it’s like saying we found the same thing in England and we talk about cannibalism. It’s terrible to say that. Here, nobody talk about that – it’s not true. It’s not the case at all, and we’re very hurt.’

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Pretending that Stefan Ramin’s reported murder has anything to do with tribal cannibalism is absolute hogwash. It may sell newspapers, but is a highly irresponsible slur on the peoples of the Marquesas Islands. It worked to prop up nineteenth century land theft from tribal peoples, but has no place at all in modern journalism. The ‘cannibals’ here may include a sole deviant murderer, but in a way include the journalists, unthinkingly shoring up racist stereotypes with no thought for the harm they do to how tribal peoples are viewed and treated.’

[Link.]

Image from Survival International.

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Russians Claim to Have Found Proof of the Yeti

October 11th, 2011 No comments

A Russian regional government claimed it’s found proof of the existence of the Yeti or “Abominable Snowman.” The Telegraph lays down the story (which has been picked up by dozens of other sources):

The Russian coal-mining region of Kemerovo said in a statement on its website that footprints and possibly even hair samples belonging to the yeti were found on the research trip to its remote mountains.

“During the expedition to the Azasskaya cave, conference participants gathered indisputable proof that the Shoria mountains are inhabited by the ‘Snow Man’,” the Kemerovo region administration said.

The expedition was organised after Kemerovo’s governor invited researchers from the United States, Canada, and several other countries to share their research and stories of encounters with the creature at a conference.

“They found his footprints, his supposed bed, and various markers with which the yeti marks his territory,” the statement said. The collected “artifacts” will be analysed in a special laboratory, it said.

[Link.]

Needless to say, this sounds only slightly more credible than Bigfoot in a freezer. Kemerovo founded a Yeti institute in March of this year, and it certainly seems interesting that such a headline-getting event occurred so soon after the institute’s founding.

While the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, is said to reside in the Himalayas, that term is also used to refer to the “Snow Man” — technically not really a Yeti — said to reside in Siberia. Similar hair-covered larger-than-human hominids have been reported in many regions all over the world. The North American Bigfoot or Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest (as well as the Sierras, the Santa Cruz mountains, and Georgia), the Skunk Ape in Florida, the Almas in the Caucasus and Mongolia, and the Yowie in Australia are all said to be related to the Yeti.

The Chinese recently mounted an expedition to search for the Yeti in the central Chinese province of Hubei, and a British team recently searched for the related Mande-barung in Northern India.

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The Coming of the Bath Salts Zombies

October 7th, 2011 4 comments

I’m painfully aware that I’m at risk of becoming the blogosphere’s chief proponent for the re-legalization of bath salts, a drug that isn’t even illegal yet but will be when an emergency Federal ban takes effect on an undetermined date later this year.

I’m not. I’m really not pro-bath salts. This crap should be illegal even if the government were, say, to decriminalize meth and cocaine.

But whenever it covers drugs, the press seems to refrain from getting anyone who has any experience with drugs to do the writing. What, is it hard to find someone who has ever heard any really good drug horror stories to write for a newspaper? That would tend to argue against the “Drugs are a nationwide plague” that newspapers seem pretty attached to. Or is it that drugs really do rot your brain…maybe even more than reporting for the local news?

The truth is, anyone who’s ever sat around with drug people has heard stuff way more outrageous than what’s being sent around about bath salts. By which I don’t mean to be an apologist for bath salts, which sound like they suck. So why do I care? I’ll get to that in a minute.

Right now, as the menace spreads around the country, various newspapers appear to be be working the field, trying to get all the bath salts horror stories filed that it can before an emergency Federal DEA ban takes effect. That could be as early as later this month.

But for now, I find it oddly comforting that one doesn’t have to go any deeper into the criminal underworld than the corner store to join the ranks of the the demonized plague that is ruining society. Of course, the newsworthiness of the bath salts nightmare is entirely dependent on its horror stories, and as with with many new drugs, bath salts hasn’t had time to develop a mythology sufficient to satisfy either people who sit around and do drugs all day, or the press (who, as far as I can tell, seem to sit around and do drugs all day) or anti-drug spokespeople from police departments (I honestly don’t know what they’re on.)

So here’s why I care: The thing is, the press only gives a flying fuck about hard drugs of any sort (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine) when something makes it “newsworthy.” But people are out there having problems on drugs all the time…every day. They’re entering the correctional system, and they’re costing the taxpayers money in every state, every city, and Federally. And you know what they’re not finding? Sufficient social support and services to get help before they enter the system, or to help them stay clean after they do enter the correctional system.

Meanwhile, the addiction industry on one level survives on the fact that rich people with drug problems can pay for services, and public and nonprofit services for low-income persons thrive on the fact that some people who care about that stuff are willing to work for peanuts and endure intolerable working conditions. The world of public and foundation-funded social services for people with addiction problems seems to chew its workers up and spit them out because they’re good people. How newsworthy is that?

There’s been heroin and cocaine addiction in the US since the late 1800s, and methamphetamine since at least the 1950s, and that entire time the services for low-income or even middle-income addicts have been sorely lacking. Drug users are seen as derelicts…people who “asked for it.” So when someone’s life gets fucked up on “boring” dope, then that’s not a news story.

But if “kids are taking this new thing called bath salts!?!?!?!?”

Well then, that is a hell of a story.

In case I need to catch you up, a new drug called “bath salts” has been blazing a trail through the south-Midwest, and is showing up in other cities. It’s legal and sold in convenience stories, and has effects somewhat like methamphetamine. It’s a serious problem, which I don’t meant to make light of. It’s hella dangerous and has not been researched; there have been deaths probably associated with the use of the drug, which can vary enormously in strength from batch to batch. Attempts to criminalize it have been slow, because it’s not covered in the Federal statutes and the issue (like many regional issues with emerging illicit substances) has tended to migrate from state to state.

Ultimately, what I’m horrified by is the half-assed way in which drug horror stories are related in the press. I”m never quite sure if I’m supposed to be actually horrified or faux horrified, but secretly titillated. Is it that people who report for local papers aren’t “hip,” so they’ve never hung out with drug fiends? I’m telling you, these stories just don’t stack up to the guy who took acid, thought he was a glass of orange juice, and spent the rest of his life begging people not to drink him.

Of course, when it comes to word-of-mouth, stories grow with the telling.

And why shouldn’t they? Half of the tellings of drug horror stories occur while the teller and the listener are, wait for it, on drugs. Nothing delights, for instance, cocaine users more than telling cocaine horror stories, whereas the press just has to shrug and say “Charlie Sheen.”

Having known a lot of people on a LOT of drugs, and some on a WHOLE LOT of drugs, I can testify that drug horror stories are one of the favorite things that drug users trade while they’re doing drugs. Like so much that’s said by drug users, the stories tend toward the bullshitty even when there’s a grain of truth. In my experience, that goes for about half the stories told by any given person who claims said story actually “happened to me!” If it happened to “my friend,” it’s definitely bullshit. If it happened to a stranger, it’s still got a pretty good chance of being crap.

And if a cop tells it to the press? Then it’s just weird. True? Not true? Or true, but just not that interesting? Intended as a cautionary tale? The tales coming out of New Hampshire actually sound pretty low-key compared to the tweakers who come to my local laundromat. All told, I think I’d rather have a city of bath salts zombies. When the Saltheads get around to “Covered with pustulating sores and talking nonstop to you about my sister in Fresno while you try to fold your underwear,” then give me a call and I’ll consider your proposal for righteous rage.

Anyway, here’s one recent panic, a little bit of love for bath salts from the Granite State. Life free or die!

DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire law enforcement officials are trying to deal with a powerful new drug that mimics cocaine but can be sold legally in stores.

The drug is called bath salts, and officials said it’s a synthetic stimulant that has been a problem in other states for years. Police said it’s now starting to take hold in New Hampshire, too.

Last month, thieves robbing a store in Somersworth targeted bath salts. And over move-in weekend at the University of New Hampshire, police were called to a medical emergency at one of the dormitories involving the drug.

“What we found there was a student that was completely delusional,” said UNH Police Deputy Chief Paul Dean.

The student had white powder covering his face.

“At that point, the police officer thought it involved cocaine or crystal methamphetamine,” Dean said.

But the drug turned out to be bath salts, and Dean said the student bought them legally.

…Over the past three months, Cheshire County Jail has had several inmates come in high on bath salts, jail officials said. Master Sgt. Matthew Willis said one inmate on the drug took his urine-soaked shirt and wrapped it around his face.

“After an hour or so, he would scream, talk to himself, act as if someone else was in the room with him,” Willis said.

Inmate Brett Wheeler said he used bath salts every day for months.

“Some brands give you a hallucinogenic high,” he said. “Some give you a meth or cocaine type of high.”

Wheeler said he bought the drugs at a local store.

“The convenience was a factor,” he said. “Not having to make a phone call. Just walk to the store.”

Wheeler was incarcerated in the jail on an unrelated charge.

Inmate Michael Arsenault was charged with criminal threatening in an incident that police said happened while he was using bath salts.

“It just crumbled me as a person in two months,” he said. “It ruined my life.”

Arsenault said that he lost 40 pounds when the drug caused him to lose his appetite for food and water. Bath salts weren’t the only drugs he had ever used, but Arsenault said they were among the most destructive.

“I’ve been an addict since I was a kid,” he said. “That drug, in particular, just took control of me, pretty much.”

Experts said the drug can be addictive, and the effects can last for days. Jail officials said the drug is so mind-altering that many inmates report that they can barely remember the experience.

“Afterwards, it almost seems like there’s guilt, disbelief at what they did,” said Officer Zachary Schucart. “After talking with a few of them, it seems like they won’t hesitate to use again.”

[Link.]

Incidentally, just as a rule of thumb, stories told by drug users are usually particularly incoherent if the teller is not high when they’re telling you. (In my experience, stories told by high people tend to be garbled, but often remarkably honest.

Stories told by people who want drugs, or want you to do whatever drug they’re doing, are the least accurate of all. “Don’t want to try cocaine, huh? Hey, more for me. Of course, it’s nothing like that meth. I knew this guy who flipped out on meth and doused himself in taco sauce and started rolling around in a–hey, you’re sure you don’t want some cocaine?”

Last, but far from least, there are some really weird things about bath salts on YouTube. Here’s a few examples:

 

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The Dangers of Meeting Lies With Lies

October 4th, 2011 No comments

How many people really protested in New York City as part of Occupy Wall Street? One thing’s for sure…the media and the government don’t want you to know. And apparently at least one of Occupation Wall Street’s supporters doesn’t, either.

The above animated GIF was produced by a guy named Tim Parkinson in response to the circulating on Facebook of the more crowd-heavy version, in later incarnation with the claim that the photo was being “pulled down off Facebook” and so “The photographer added some text” to combat Facebook censorship. I myself reposted this image in response to such a message.

The “photographer” appears to be Google Maps, which should have been evident on first glance. That makes the claim that “The photographer added some text” completely silly. The more crowd-heavy version appears to have been created by a well-intentioned Occupy Wall Street supporter looking to create a visceral sense of the movement’s huge number of supporters…that aren’t actually there.

Whatever well-intentioned Photoshopper faked this photo should be ashamed of him or herself. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, lies cannot overcome lies…they only add a deeper darkness to a night devoid of stars.

But far more ashamed of themselves should be the conservative trolls who are about to use this as proof of liberal malfeasance. With their neo-conservative, supply-side economics, conservatives have bankrupted not just this nation, but the American way of life. With their tax-the-poor, enrich-the-rich policies, conservatives have ruined our country. So many conservatives, unable to stop kissing the ass of people far richer than them, advocate enormous taxes for people in their income bracket and no taxes for corporations. They do this…why? Who knows. But they enforce their status quo with lies…as does the media. In the conservative mindset, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney get a pass for having shoveled public money into private corporations in an attempt to destroy the public sector so they can get rich at taxpayer expense. They get a pass for bankrupting the country, which is then blamed on liberals. And whenever a liberal farts, conservatives are there to sniff the air and start screaming that it’s Hiroshima.

This country and the American way of life have been bankrupted by conservatives who oppose ANY form of corporate accountability, ANY move toward fair taxation, and ANY meaningful, non-hollow public sector WHATSOEVER.

Some liberal prick ‘shopped a picture. Don’t equate one irrelevant and stupid lie with a trillion systematic and malicious lies. Conservatives have a lot to answer for, as do, while we’re at it, liberals.

But both sides should be able to get behind opposition to corporatism and greed, the demolition of  America to make way for a a nation built on hegemony for the wealthy. If the worst thing everyone can howl about is some ‘shopped pic of a crowd in New York…well, I can live with that.

But the guilty ‘shopper still needs a spanking.

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