The Bastards and a Darker Sansa

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By John Geluardi

The Battle of the Bastards was one of the most exhilarating set pieces ever created for television and perhaps film. The hacking violence and overwhelming confusion of horses, arrows, swords and axes was depicted in graphic medieval detail. The Stark Sigill flies again from Winterfell’s walls after Ramsey Bolton’s army was routed, and Bolton himself was set upon by his own hounds in an inglorious death that was among the most highly anticipated of all  Thrones’ despised villains.

But while the loser of the Battle of the Bastards was easy to identify, the winner is a bit more vague and the uncertainty is deeply troubling. The messy victory raises many questions about who will rule Winterfell and how heightened tensions between Sansa and Jon Snow will play out in the season’s final episode this Sunday.

There has been a lot of speculation among my fellow Thrones geeks about Sansa’s important role in the battle and a good deal of celebration about her officiating over Ramsey’s gruesome death. Most of the comments I’ve read about the new, ruthlessly pro-active Sansa have been positive. After years of watching her be victimized, fans are apparently rejoicing to see her take control over her life and seemingly to assert herself as a potential worthy leader of Winterfell and possibly the North. There’s no doubt, Sansa has become a major player.

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Filed under Battle of the Bastards, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones Geeks, Jon Snow, politics, Sansa Stark

Victim Reaches Out To Serial BB Gun Sniper Who Shot Her

By John Geluardi

The victim of a BB gun sniper attack last weekend is now working to get help for the man who shot her above the eye while she was hiking with her husband in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in the East Bay hills. The victim, Cori Pansarasa, a clinical psychologist, said the man who shot her is mentally disabled and she wants to work with his family to get him help.

“His family has been trying for many years to get help for him and since I work as a psychologist, I want to see if there’s something I can do,” Pansarasa said two days after the man shot her with a BB gun.
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East Bay Regional Park police arrested 21-year-old Filberto Alvidrez Sunday evening shortly after Pansarasa was shot. Police suspect Alvidrez of at least two previous BB gun attacks that occurred in the same area. The first was in early May when a man was shot in the face and another was shot on September 27 — although Jones said there were no immediate details about the second incident.

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Filed under Crime, Restorative Justice, Sniper, Wildcat Canyon

Bernie Sanders And The Change-Phobic Mainstream Media

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By John Geluardi

While Sen. Bernie Sanders’ thrilling primary bid has exceeded all expectations, it has also drawn out the mainstream media’s resistance to change. For decades, the default mode for political coverage by large, corporate media outlets has been to protect the political status quo, and perhaps its own interests, no matter how corrupt, dysfunctional or apathetic the ruling political parties become.

It’s certainly true that Sanders has received a great deal of positive press and he is beloved on the internet, but there is still a prominent reactionary thread that is constant in its mission to undermine the independent minded Sanders’ message of economic fairness, Wall Street reform, ending corporate influence in politics and climate change. In fact, the more Sanders excites the Democratic base, the more plaintive these media forces become and one doesn’t have to do much Googling to find media dismissals of Sanders as a viable candidate.

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times unabashedly compared Sanders, a respected elected official with a political record that stretches back to 1981, to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, a wealthy real estate investor and flamboyant television personality with no political experience whatever. In a subtler approach, the Chicago Tribune assured Sanders’ supporters that they are not “delusional,” and that they should have fun while his campaign lasts, but then reminded them that “it’s still pretty clear that Sanders has no real chance of defeating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.”

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Driving Stoned in California? It Might Not Be Such A Big Deal

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By John Geluardi

As Californian voters prepare to consider legalizing cannabis, a newly released blue-ribbon report on marijuana policy is calling for a balanced approach toward so-called “drugged driving.” Instead of punitive, drunk driving-type laws and penalties that many anti-marijuana legislators have called for in the past, the report recommends increased enforcement of existing laws with an emphasis on matching penalties to actual risks.

The report, “Policy Options for Regulating Marijuana in California,” which was commissioned by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and released last week, recommends that, instead of creating hysterical new restrictions based on dodgy statistics, law enforcement officers should be given new tools and skills to determine if California drivers are operating motor vehicles while stoned. “It is already illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana,” the report reads, “and instead of creating new laws and penalties, law enforcement should be given new tools, such as THC mouth swab tests and video recorded impairment tests that could effectively enforce existing laws and possibly meet standards of evidence.”

The report’s approach is measured compared to a series of overly restrictive Assembly bills proposed in recent years. Among the more hysterical pieces of legislation was a 2013 bill proposed by then-state Senator Lou Correa that would have made it a crime for drivers to have any detectable level of any drug of any kind in their system unless they were in possession of a prescription. That would have meant that if some ingredient in your cough syrup showed up in a blood test, you could have been facing jail time. Fortunately, calmer heads have prevailed in Sacramento and most of these fear mongering-type bills have died in committee.

One of the reasons these over-muscular bills don’t fare well is that it’s very difficult to effectively identify THC in the bloodstream, which has made it very difficult to gather meaningful statistics about marijuana use and its impact on traffic safety. There is, as yet, no reliable roadside test to measure THC levels in the blood, and even if there were, the results would be sketchy due to the unreliability of a positive THC test result. The best way to measure THC in the system is a blood sample test, which is currently illegal for law enforcement to obtain during a roadside stop. The issue is further complicated because THC metabolites remain in the blood for up to a week after the psychoactive effects have worn off, according to a 2014 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The new blue-ribbon report also addresses the thorny issue of penalties once a driver is found to be stoned. In Colorado, the charges for drunk driving, an offense that is easy to detect and known to cause thousands of traffic deaths annually, are the same for driving while stoned, a condition that is not a proven danger to other drivers.

The blue-ribbon report contends that such an approach is “arbitrary” and “unscientific.” The report also does not endorse the “per se test,” which makes the simple presence of THC in the blood a crime for drivers. “A remaining question is whether the mere presence of THC in the blood, absent evidence of impairment, should be sufficient for a criminal justice sanction,” the report reads. “A lesser standard would be to allow for a civil fine, such as a ticket, but not a criminal penalty, for the mere presence of THC at a high level, without other signs of impairment.”

But even the standard of visible impairment brings up another nagging problem for hardline legislators. The fact is: Drivers under the influence of marijuana have been climbing behind the wheel for decades, and unlike for people who drive drunk or while texting, there are no solid statistics that demonstrate driving while stoned creates increased traffic risks. In fact, a 2015 study by the NHTSA presented mixed results when it came to driving under the influence of marijuana.

While the study determined that some marijuana users are more likely to be involved in collisions, the results were mostly inconclusive because the category of drivers who were most likely to be involved in crashes while stoned were young males — the same demographic likely to be involved in accidents with absolutely no drugs in their systems. “Drivers testing positive for THC were overrepresented in the crash-involved population,” the NHTSA study reads. “However, when demographic factors (age and gender) and alcohol use were controlled, the study did not find an increase in population-based crash risk associated with THC use.”

Of course, all of this is not to say that driving stoned is safe. In fact, several of the eight proposed legalization ballot initiatives in California recognize the risks and call for preventative measures.

John Geluardi is the author of Cannabiz: The Explosive Rise of the Medical Marijuana Industry.

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Filed under Pot and Politics