Friday, February 15, 2008

Pro-gun liberal

There is a phenomenum afoot, and I am a part of it. If you know me,then you know that I am on the Obama bandwagon. I am much more liberal than he is, but no candidate for Presidency can ever be as liberal as I am.

Assuming Obama gets the nomination, he will be subjected to serious scrutinity between the convention and the general election. I think the topic that will put him in the greatest jeopardy of losing the general election is his position on gun control.

I am a civil libertarian. I support the citizenry's right to defend itself from a tyrannical government. I also have been a hunter (rarely succesfully) since childhood. I support Barak Obama without reservation. Why?

For one, his message is more important than a single issue (really, my ONLY issue with him.) Also, the Second Amendment (along with a few other critical portions of the Constitution) is already pretty much stripped of any real authority anyway. Don't believe me? Well, if the intent of the Second Amendment is to allow for the citizenry to protect itself from its Government, then we should have legal access to ANY weapon that the Government has access to. Obviously, I recognize the impracticality of this, I'm just saying. I think it's fair to say that violent overthrow of the US Government by the citizenry is unrealistic. As such, is your life or mine really affected by banning a gun designed for the sole purpose of killing as many people as possible in as short a period of time as possible? Not unless your a criminal.

Finally, what power the Second Amendment still enjoys is not in jeopardy. Gun control does not enjoy enough support to be threatened by any single person, no matter how powerful. That is just a fact. The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in the country and any restrictions on gun ownership for recreational purposes is in no danger whatsoever.

I've heard all the platitudes. "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." There is substantial evidence to suggest otherwise, but it is not the intent of this blog entry to make the case for or against gun control. I am merely trying to show how a gun-toting liberal can enthusiastically support Barak Obama. That is all.

Much Love,


Thursday, December 21, 2006

What a Waste of Resources!

Remember when America knew how to wage a war? Start with a just cause, have a clearly defined objective, maintain a moral high ground, and know when to get the hell out. Like every American war of the last half century, the war on drugs is lost. We just haven’t got the good grace to admit defeat.

Perhaps the best indication of the truth of this claim is the current state of affairs in Bolivia. We have a long standing tradition of imposing our will on the Bolivian people and stifling their efforts to maintain a way of life that dates back millennia. There were clear indications as far back as 2001 that our coca eradication policy in Bolivia was, at best, ineffective and was actually detrimental to our interests in the region. According to an essay published that year by Phillip Coffin of The New York Academy of Medicine, the desired effect of the 1999 Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act has not been realized and more cocaine is entering the United States at lower prices. All of this comes at a cost to taxpayers of $2.3 Billion. In fact, since Richard Nixon’s declaration of the War on Drugs in 1968, we have thrown over half a trillion dollars at the problem and cocaine has never been cheaper (VH1). Perhaps we should dispense with the righteous angst and provide the coca farmers direct subsidies.

Interestingly, US subsidies to domestic farmers are, in large part, the cause of increased coca production in the Andes. The ability of US farmers to flood the global market with food at a price lower than the cost of its production prevents legitimate Bolivian farmers from competing, thus forcing them to cultivate a crop that will allow them to sustain themselves. This is the price we pay for ignoring the laws of economics and violating our own Free Trade Policies. Admittedly, this is an unintended consequence of subsidies and coca production would continue if subsidies were to be immediately discontinued for a myriad of other reasons, but the practice of providing subsidies to our own growers should be re-evaluated in light of this deleterious side effect.

If our Drug Enforcement Agency can be forgiven for missing the observations of Phillip Dunn, or anyone else with a professed interest in Bolivian affairs, it certainly can not be excused for either misinterpreting or ignoring the 2003 overthrow of Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. According to an October 6, 2003 Washington Post article by Jeffrey Sachs, the falloff Sanchez de Lozada is “further evidence that the US approach to the region…is simplistic and prone to failure”. Our tendency to act unilaterally with barely a cursory understanding of the cultural or economic impact of our actions on the indigenous people resulted in rioting and the ouster of a government which was friendly to our interests. There should have been “all hands on deck” alarms being sounded, but our government no longer seems to be farsighted enough to value its international image or relationships.

Our own government recognizes that our current policies and efforts to reduce supply have not worked and will not work. In a 2003 Report to Congress, Raphael Perl pointed out that 2001 eradication efforts reduced coca production by 70% in Bolivia with a corresponding increase of 234% in coca production in Columbia. A long as demand for cocaine in the United States exists and we have the ability to pay for it, someone is going to supply it. This phenomenon is referred to as the “balloon effect” because it resembles the response of a balloon when it is squeezed. The United States’ insistence on continuing to implement a clearly failed policy defies logic. The only conclusion that I am able to reach that explains the actions of my government is that it is politically expedient to appear to have a strong position against drugs. Most people don’t wish to see drugs peddled to our children and these concerns are exploited by politicians in order to get elected. Any real concern by these politicians would result in the implementation of new policies that have a chance of succeeding.

As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango” and our counterpart in this destructive dance may soon be calling a different tune. In the wake of the political unrest in Bolivia, the people have elected the former leader of the coca growers union as their President. Evo Morales has made it clear that he will not view US policy as the law of the land and that he will fight to decriminalize the coca plant. By criminalizing a plant that has been a staple of the indigenous people for thousands of years, we have succeeding only in creating criminals. President Morales continually reminds us that coca is not cocaine. The production of cocaine is an involved chemical process that occurs outside of Bolivia. Morales is quick to assure us that Bolivia has no interest in harboring drug lords. He is concerned with the limitations being placed on legitimate and traditional uses of the coca plant. He is also concerned with the ability of indigenous farmers to support themselves and their families.

The Morales presidency will place pressure on existing US policy. Whether this will result in any changes to policy depends, in large part, on his ability to get his message across to the American people. If enough public pressure is brought to bear upon our legislature, a humane and forward-thinking approach to drug policy will result. The United States is, however, in a stronger position and every indication is that Bolivian resistance will be met with US military intervention.

It is morally reprehensible for us to further impoverish an already suffering people and imprison tens of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens, when the problem lies primarily on the demand side. In order to maintain a moral victory in this war, we must be prepared to conduct it in a merciful manner that doesn’t ruin thousands of lives while professing a desire to protect the health of our citizens. We must ask ourselves what motivates our huge demand for cocaine, and how we can reduce domestic demand.

To realize any degree of success in the war on drugs, we must first determine if it is a war worth fighting. The history of prohibition is steeped in racism and religious dogma. There are certainly public health concerns, and there are good reasons to control drug use. If we ultimately decide that it serves our interest to do so, perhaps waging war on many of the most disenfranchised people in the world, including a large number of our own citizens, isn’t the best approach.

Success will only be accomplished by dialing down the rhetoric and applying the proper strategies. Posturing and using military terminology causes immediate cessation of the open dialogue that will be required to achieve real solutions. By all indications, attempting to control supply has been a colossal failure. As long as there is a demand for cocaine, there will be those desperate enough to supply it. Instead we must analyze our own behavior. Why do we demand to be supplied with cocaine? If we can answer this question, we can begin to figure out how we can reduce demand. Finally, in order to normalize relations with countries such as Bolivia , we will have to eventually dial down our imperialistic stranglehold on them. We are not apt to do this until we can declare victory in the war on drugs. To do so would require us to have a clear definition of what victory entails. What is our objective? Once we define an objective we must determine if it is realistic or we will be fighting the same battles forever.

The US will continue to fight wars that we cannot win until such time as we pick battles worth fighting, conduct ourselves in a manner which meets the standards for human rights that we demand of our neighbors, and begin our wars with clearly defined objectives. As that is clearly not the case in the US War on Drugs, I suggest that we exercise another option and get out.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Finally, Balance

I don't know how much important legislation will take place in the next 2 years in what Tom Delay has called a "lame duck majority". At first I thought he was refering to the outgoing Republican lawmakers, which scared me, as I considered what they may try to accomplish in the coming months. Instead he was refering to the incoming Dems, whom he says will not be able to push any agenda as long as Bush is President. I suspect that there will be alot of stonewalling, which is progress. There will be balance and oversight, which is something many (apparently most) of us have been aching for. I love nonviolet changes of power.
Some thoughts:
Melman, the head of the RNC, is now refering to me as a progressive, not a liberal. That's nice, but he still was calling me to move to the right in order to achieve concensus.
Dean, his DNC counterpart, says he still believes America is a conservative country and I think he's right. Our Democratic leaders would be wise to follow Dean's lead and keep it toned down. We've been given an opportunity to lead and we should use it responsibly.
Murtha fired a shot across the bow. Someone needs to reign him in. We must be careful not to mire the country in more of the same partisan bickering.
Tennessee missed an opportunity to be represented by a true gentleman and statesman. He gave the most gracious concession speech I have ever heard. We will see him again.

More later. I have a test to study for. Much love.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pulling My Head Out of The Sand

I have returned from my summer away, during which I had little access to news. It wasn't such bad thing, but now I must spend a little time catching up on world events. I should be active again very soon.

In the meantime, let me speak a bit to what's been on my mind. Perception is reality. Egocasting. In our little blog world, we are perceived pretty much as we desire to be, but what about in our real lives. How do people perceive me? Based on the frequency with which I am shocked by what is said to me, quite differently than I think I am.

Would I be able to handle the answer to this question? What if we all stopped telling the itty bitty white lies to spare each others feelings? Are we actually doing anyone any favors by allowing them to live a life of self-delusion? Are we so fragile as to be broken by some facts? Or maybe how we are perceived isn't a complete accident. Maybe it is a defense mechanism and we are purposeful (if not subconsciously) in allowing ourselves to be misperceived.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Step up!

Hey, kids, you're grandparents are tired. It's time for you to do your part. Yeah, you may not know it... It may be impossible for you to imagine, but your nana & bampy were worldchangers. Go ahead, ask them what they were doing when THEIR friends were being fed to the war machine. Made fun of a hippie recently?

Or maybe you're grandfather participated in the craziness. Odds are against it, but if he did, is he asking you to get overseas and do your part? Do you even know what I'm talking about? It's more than just something you read about in a history book.

What is your part in this story?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Now the Work Begins

I took my macroeconomics final today. It went well. Now that finals are over, the real work begins. I start my summer internship on Monday. I found out yesterday that I am being sent out of state to a rural landfill project. It happens to be very near to a State Park that I camped in for a week the summer before I went back to school. I spent the morning getting my camper ready, but the campground isn't open yet, so I'll spend the first week in a hotel. BTW, the ladies at the town office were most helpful, as I arrived woefully unprepared. They even offered to feed me.

I'm excited about how much I'm going to learn this summer, but I'm a bit terrified too. I'm not a spring chicken and it's been 2 years since I've done any real physical labor, and I will be busting my ass. I don't mind, I just hope my boss understands if it takes me a couple of weeks to get back to fighting shape.

So, I'll try to post when I get a chance to get home. In the meantime friends, stay strong. Much love.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Just Like in the Movies

Today was the funeral, and the weather was made for it. Overcast, gray and misting rain. Take out the preacher and hymns (although cousin S. gave a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace") and you couldn't ask for a better funeral. I heard some great stories about Al today. I think you could have gone to this funeral today having never met Al, and come away feeling you'd missed out on something special. You'd be right.

Al had gone golfing last Friday with his younger son. He told us the score was within 3 strokes, but he wouldn't say which way.

Apparently, between heart attacks on Saturday, he had his nurses in stitches with the testicle story. If I could script my exit, it would look alot like Al's.

Al's oldest son, Rick, told us the story of a visiting vacation. Al needed a new battery for his car. Rick, knowing of his father's thriftiness, expected him to choose the cheapest of some 8 models that fit his car. Instead, he noticed Al eyeing a very expensive model. "This one's got an 8 year warranty." Rick thought that surely, at Al's age he wouldn't buy that expensive battery. Well, he did. Rick checked under the hood, and wouldn't you know that warranty expired this month.

Al kept a bottle of Single Malt Scotch. I forget what he was saving it for, but it was 57 years old. I noticed that it was missing when I was over there today. I have a pretty good idea where it is. Cheers, Al!