The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

December 22, 2011
An iconic kiss for a new era in U.S. military
So it won't become as iconic as the famous kiss between a sailor and a nurse in Times Square on the day that Japan surrendered during World War II.

But this week's smooch between a female sailor and her girlfriend is getting quite a bit of attention (including on today's Bee front page) -- and is emblematic of the U.S. military coming to terms with the end of "don't ask, don't tell."

That's a good thing.

It's a small, but symbolic, indication that the transition is going relatively smoothly. That was one of the big questions when the repeal of the 18-year policy -- which banned service members from openly acknowledging that they are gay -- took effect in September. 

One of the last defenses for don't ask, don't tell fell apart last year when the Pentagon said that it could be ended with minimal impact to readiness or unit cohesion. That conclusion was unveiled by the Pentagon's top leaders when they urged Congress to do away with the law, saying that legislation followed by an orderly transition was far preferable to an immediate change forced by a court order.

The Bee's editorial board was among the voices calling for the repeal of what it called the "discriminatory, destructive" law.

It's a Navy tradition that one returning sailor is chosen to be first off the ship for a kiss. Wednesday, when the USS Oak Hill docked in Virginia Beach, Va., the chosen one was Petty Officer Marissa Gaeta of Placerville. She met her partner, Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell of Los Angeles, who serves aboard another ship and was in civilian dress.

The Oak Hill's commanding officer didn't make a big deal out of it. But it was to Gaeta.

"It's nice to be able to be myself," she told reporters afterwards. "It's been a long time coming."
December 1, 2011
Does medical marijuana mean fewer traffic deaths?

Advocates of medical marijuana make lots of arguments: it eases pain for the seriously ill, it brings into the open the underground black market, etc., etc.

Here's a possible new one for their arsenal -- it can reduce traffic deaths, especially those tied to drinking.

That's the conclusion of a new study that found that traffic fatalities dropped by nearly 9 percent in the 13 states, including California, which legalized medical pot between 1990 and 2009.

In their paper published by a German research center, economists D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University and Daniel I. Rees of the University of Colorado say the link between marijuana and traffic safety is beer consumption.

They suggest that the easier the access to pot, the more people are substituting marijuana for beer, especially 20- to 29-year-olds. Less drinking, particularly in bars, means less drinking and driving and fewer accidents.

That, of course, cuts both ways because it suggests that medical marijuana is being widely used recreationally -- not quite what most California voters thought they were approving when they passed Proposition 215 in 1996.

Based on a more limited sample -- Montana, Vermont and Rhode Island -- Anderson and Rees also say that the legalization of medical marijuana leads to increased consumption among adults, but not among children.

Emily Badger, writing for the Atlantic magazine's website on city issues, notes that this study could also interest those who want to reduce traffic deaths. Raising the driving age reduced deaths. So did mandatory seat-belt laws. "Policy-makers," she writes, "may now want to add to this list an unexpected intervention: Legalize medical marijuana."

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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