Category Archives: Rights

What is the real Marijuana question?

I think it’s time I tackled the subject of marijuana. In the mixed bag that is the dialogue about cannabis, why is marijuana treated as a controlled substance in the United States, and how does it differ from other legal drugs?

How dangerous is marijuana when compared to drugs, like alcohol and tobacco, which are not outlawed by federal statue? Significantly less dangerous. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an NIH agency, the major cannabis risks are breathing problems (if smoked), increased heart rate for 3 hours after use, and problems of child development during pregnancy. Hardly the evil drug that would warrant such rigid federal drug policy. There are also concerns about long-term use, but what drug – legal or otherwise – doesn’t have adverse effects in the long term with overuse? I’m not advocating aggressively for pot, but I’m unconvinced that marijuana EVER warranted the effort that has been exerted to keep it out of the mainstream.

More evidence of this is found in further comparison to the effects of our legalized drugs. Unlike alcohol users, marijuana users’ driving abilities do not deteriorate appreciably. Government-funded studies have proved this. Marijuana users are also very unlikely to exhibit violent behavior after use, which can’t be said for alcohol consumers. Tobacco use, while not noticeably altering user behaviors, is an immense burden on the country’s health system due to the drug’s well-known effects on the lungs, heart and circulatory system, and is responsible for more than 700,000 deaths dues to cancer and other smoking-induced disorders. Marijuana health complications are insignificant in comparison.

It’s always struck Random Spotter as hypocritical that we continue to allow deadly recreational drugs while our official position on a far more benign drug continues to drive policies that fill our jails and cost taxpayers billions. Pot has been legalized by voter initiative in 4 state and DC thus far. Four more states will have similar initiatives on the ballot in November. And, Vermont is the first state set to consider the issue through legislation in coming months. So, clearly, the state tides have turned. I think it’s time to stop the endless failure that is our federal policy on marijuana, create a sensible tax and distribution program, and call game over on the topic.

Let’s not ignore what’s happening in Turkey

Yesterday, the Turkish government raided the Zaman newspaper, a paper that had originally supported Turkish President Erdogan. Why does the Random Spotter care about a situation that is so far away and doesn’t have any urgent connection to us? Well, I hate seeing oppression, no matter where it occurs. I’m convinced that well-reasoned criticism is necessary for good and accountable government, but there are too many places in the world right now where honesty will earn you time in jail, if not worse.

Turkey is supposed to be a secular, constitutional republic. That’s its legacy in Europe, and it’s been a shining example of religious and political tolerance in the region. But, the civil rights violations of President Erdogan’s regime are getting worse, and that’s dangerous to Turkish citizens and US interests alike.

So far, there’s not much outcry from the West or the world. Too bad. Oppression starts there, but you can bet it’s on its way here. 

The President thinks we should all be safe, educated, and successful. Duh.

RandomSpotter is somewhat amused by the President’s State of the Union address this evening.  Perhaps amused is the wrong word.  It’s more like I am like a child who knows a secret and finds it comical to be in the presence of those who don’t know it.  What is this secret?  I’m afraid it’s only a secret to those who choose emotion over intellect, and by now you should know that I make every effort to NOT do that.

Here it is:  When someone makes emotional appeals for anything from quality, early childhood education, to revitalization of cities hit hard by manufacturing movement offshore, to not hurting those who need federal entitlement programs, there is no real opposition to the statements.  All of these were made tonight by Mr. Obama.  It’s like saying America should be the home of the free and the brave.  Only a fool would take an opposing position to statements that espouse positive values and human prosperity.  And, if you’ll forgive some honesty here, there is no courage in these statements.

Courage is found in those who don’t just form attractive ideas in their mouths but who actually do the difficult work of identifying the painful sacrifices that must be made.  At a time like this, with another sequester threat looming, the President chose to continue to present mostly hollow, emotional pleas, as usual.  We again heard that Mr. Obama has many big ideas that will solve all of our problems.  But those of us who need a little more meat with our potatoes can’t just agree robotically and sing Yankee Doodle.  First of all, as offensive as the logic of this statement may be to the weak thinkers among us, Mr. Obama had four years to create the harmony that he promises will soon be upon us.  However, I give his first four years failing grades, and the logical conclusion – again, our emotion-driven counterparts will object – is that we will get plenty more of the same in this next term.  Secondly, if he is to be an activist President, I would expect to hear a deeper commitment to compromise and even a little bit of acceptance of responsibility for certain failings from Mr. Obama.  A strong sense of mission and humanity can spur great admiration in a people.  Instead, we got the same threats that, if we don’t do what he wants us to do, he’ll continue to issue Executive Orders to get his way.

So, Mr. President, I say that you were a coward this evening.  Not the kind that runs from a fight, but a coward, nonetheless.  Tonight you elected to expound cheaply and to lead weakly.  No collaborative cost-reduction strategies that could accomplish real economic change.  Instead, you dug in your heels and said that any cuts would be unacceptable and that flat spending is good enough.  Where’s the brilliance, sacrifice or leadership in that?   But, I’m still grinning.  Unlike so many who fall victim to the empty poetry of your emotional appeals, I can see right through you.

Equality isn’t parity, but we’ve come to believe it is.

Random Spotter recently had the opportunity to watch the new movie “Lincoln” that Steven Spielberg directed and produced.  As I watched, a million thoughts raced through my mind, including an observation that the founding fathers created an indisputable foundation for the defeat of slavery in their definition of equality.  Once slaves were recognized as people, their ultimate emancipation was a foregone conclusion because of the language of “all men are created equal” and” they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence.

After further reflection, I reached a point of discomfort as I came to the conclusion that equality is a term that has lost its true meaning in the political rhetoric of the last 100 years.  Our partisan polarization of issues has bastardized the issue of equality.  In fact, the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution sought to create a nation that limited government powers and interference in the private and public activities of its citizens.  However, Government in the past century has ballooned in size and scope of regulation, and in its efforts to solve social and economic ills, has achieved a level of taxation and oppression that anyone with libertarian sensibilities can’t help but reject.

Perhaps more importantly, our political vocabulary now defines equality as parity of pay, benefits, economic achievement, recognition, and employment.  Our American society now demands an equal distribution of everything of value.  The problem with this interpretation is that it misrepresents equality’s significance to our founding fathers, and it’s not a workable definition in practice.  Equality has never meant anything other than opportunity.  The founding fathers envisioned a nation in which all had the opportunity to follow their ambitions and to seek their own paths free from government intrusion.  Instead, we’ve created a culture of entitlement that is evident wherever there is any imbalance, as seen on battles over tax rates, federal services, college admissions and employment screening, and anything else that could be tied to personal achievement.

Yes, it’s still difficult for politicians and the media to be honest about individual success.  I doubt that they don’t believe that hard work deserves reward.  But, I do believe that emotional stories of need and want touch the average person (including politicians and journalists) more intensely than logical expositions about the value of rewards commensurate with creativity, ingenuity, and hard effort.  I’m sure the early founders would disagree with our new definition of equality because, no matter how appealing the idea of equal wealth may seem, they recognized that achievement is not a collective endeavor but an individual one.  Government’s role is to protect the process, not guarantee the result.

Flashing your badge is fine, but I want to see a warrant if you are going to read my e-mail.

Patrick Leahy has again changed his mind about his email privacy bill.  He originally announced that the bill would enhance online and e-mail privacy protections, but after Justice Department complaints, Leahy’s revised bill was expected to give more surveillance powers to government agencies.  Leahy pushed back this week after CNET reported on the bill, but he has given little guidance regarding exactly what his position will be.

James Baker, the associate deputy attorney general at DOJ, has publicly warned that requiring warrants to gain access to stored e-mail could have an “adverse impact” on criminal investigations.  Is that so?  I think Mr. Baker should appear before the Senate to explain in detail what this impact could be.  Not to be overly skeptical, but every U.S. law enforcement agency has addressed the requirements for issuance of search warrants for decades.  District attorneys understand the rules and know that, if the case merits, they can obtain a warrant through well-defined channels 24 hours a day.  How is it a greater burden to the feds than anybody else?  My theory is that the “burden” lies in having to explain DOJ, CIA or NSA logic and investigation to a judge.

I’m not advocating naiveté.  National security is a very dirty business carried out by many patriotic Americans.  This mission is so dirty that most of us never want to observe the sausage-making process.  Nonetheless, the Constitution offers the only real protections against the excessive actions of those who would wish to protect us.  The rule of law is paramount if we are to avoid a “the ends justifies the means” approach to government.  I hope Senator Leahy is listening to those who vigorously defend our Fourth Amendment protections.  We’ll know on Thursday.