the marijuanablogs

Since President Obama appeared on an internet based town hall earlier last week, my RSS reader has been exploding mentioning the implications of his answer to question of marijuana legalization. (Since the questions were submitted and voted upon, let’s set aside the idea for the purposes of this discussion that the voting system was gamed by marijuana advocates.) In the end, the President said he did not favor legalization of marijuana as a means of stimulating the economy. A strict interpretation would say that he did not turn down the possibility since he limited his answer to marijuana legalization as a economy stimulant. (Thus avoiding the first time marijuana stimulated anything more than the snack food economy or carpentry. Oh, and the press noticed this as well.) In pairing this answer with the New York State Assembly repealing the Rockefeller laws, it brings up a questioning of the concept of how we deal with drugs and drug offenders in this country.

This reminds me of a classic Bill Hicks sketch about alcohol versus marijuana.

“You’re at a ballgame, you’re at a  concert, someone’s really violent, aggressive, and obnoxious.  Are they drunk or are they smoking pot?”

In reading the collected accounts at Andrew Sullivan, I cannot help but wonder that, if you were to exchange the terminology of pot smoking for booze drinking in the user stories, would anyone raise an eyebrow by their tales of use? None whatsoever. Now, this might be more revealing of how our society views these different vices, but it really sends up some flags for me. Why should the destructive traits of alcohol be set aside so readily? Why don’t we examine the pros and cons of marijuana in an open forum?

For full disclosure, I have never tried it and have no real interest to. Over the years I have friends who smoke it recreationally and lead very normal lives of gainful employment, dating, and other normal social relationships. I will concede that any drug can be abused, whether it is marijuana or a narcotic or an over the counter cold medication. There is a belief that certain drugs can lead to harder drug that are worse habits and extremely unhealthy, which I can understand but find somewhat incomplete in terms of cause and effect. I think that it is more of a case of personality, social perceptions, and old fashioned curiosity that enables people to make the jump to these more debilitating addictions. (I’d love to see some more studies on this.)

I do see marijuana as a separate entity in comparison to the larger context of the war on drugs. The war on drugs, sadly, is a bureaucratic monstrosity offering empirical proof that the road to Hell is paved with both good intentions and taxpayer dollars. Let there be no doubt that there are some extremely nasty drugs out there and these drugs cause some serious societal damage. However, our current approach to drug enforcement, drug user treatment, and the criminal justice system absolutely stinks. We need a serious reevaluation on how to tackle this issue before we throw another few billion dollars down the crapper (the irony of this drug enforcement evasion tactic metaphor should not be lost on this discussion topic). We are not doing any favors to our southern sovereign neighbors, nor the American penal system, nor our minority populations. I would not advocate an end to the war, just the closing of certain fronts and a new approach to the strategy of enforcement.

I fear that the marijuana legalization debate will get the same reception that advocates for a discussion of a lower drinking received. Rather than examine the merits of each argument, we’ll be assailed by sensationalist media and anti-drug advocates pushing specious reasoning such as “Anyone who favors marijuana legalization just wants to get high without being hassled, and anyone who favors drug decriminalization generally is or wants to be a drug user.” And we lose more than an examination of the issue, we lose people to a faulty system, resources to an inefficient policy, and another serious issue lost to a short attention span public at the feet of a 24/7 news cycle media. The pure distillery of news information to literally minute segments is maddening with complicated issues like this one, but I digress.

Personally, any real discussion about marijuana decriminalization should start with moving it from the Schedule 1 list to the Schedule 2 list. I don’t forsee full decrmininalization in the near future, but a gradual relaxing of the prohibtion over time. I think, with each generation, we slowly stop focusing on the glass or pipe in front of us and look at the person behind it. It always boils down to a people issue and we need to start treating it like one.

pitchfork futures are up. way up.

A friend of mine put this article from Rolling Stone up in his blog about the bailout and AIG. While I had read various blogs, heard the talking heads on television, and other print media articles, this put it all in perspective. If anything, it quite possibly made me a tad more religious for I don’t think some of these people will see justice in this life. I have never wanted to own a pitchfork more than any other time in my life, even if I wasn’t using it for its originally created purpose.

The article also served to reverse my position on the bailouts and the incredible amounts of money involved here. Not simply because it is against the very nature of free market capitalism, but that these people deserve to undergo either financial reorganization or bankruptcy. (As my father put it last night, “They should get the haircut they deserve, not the bolstering.”) This would allow the companies to come down in size to the more manageable (read: easier to regulate) levels prior to 1999. It would also send a clear signal that such organization behavior will not be tolerated.

I’m not completely unsympathic to the plight of the people who work or worked for the company who are going to lose their jobs from this financial crisis. Having been let go a couple of times in my jog history, I would hope that this would create the change or innovation I underwent in changing fields. The march of industry will go on, just to a different beat.

power to the people

Of all things to be looking into over the internet (and perhaps I’ve exhausted all of the juvenile ones), I’m looking into how to form a political action committee and starting one with my friends. Yes, seriously. And why not? The age of Obama has proven that the internet is a perfectly viable means of harnessing a grassroots effort. Political activism is currently in vogue right now, my interest in the World of Warcraft is winding down, and I’d like to do something different that is both helpful and meaningful to me.

The good news is that finding information on PACs is relatively easy. The Federal Election Commission has a good FAQ complete with a guide and forms for an interested individual. The bad news is trying to read the guide. I wish I could say that it was a file thing, but it’s more of the fact that it is written by lawyers under the direction to write something “user friendly”. So it meanders through regular people talk and ominious awful legal talk. I had a year of law school before going into library science and this crap gives me flashbacks. However, in cursory reading, it’s not that bad. Sure, it’s a 134 pages of gobbelty gook, but it doesn’t feel like a hot fire poker enema. So, it might be worth sloshing through.

This has also been a (gasp) educational experience. I didn’t know they came in multiple flavors (organization or company based versus nonconnected versus a leadership variety) and that that their spending limits are comparable to individuals (which makes sense when I think that people make their own PACs or donate to other PACs so they can make multiple contributions to a single campaign, thus gaming the system; yay American democracy). The most important position in the PAC is the treasurer since apparently you cannot function without one. In fact, it’s the only position listed and discussed to any extent. Since it’s all about money, it makes sense. Then, oh yes, there is a section that is all about communication. It’s like tips from your grandparents about what you can say or can’t say on a date. If you mention a candidate, the money goes there. If you get money that is earmarked for a candidate, then it goes there (I think). Then there are types of solicitation that resemble downhill slalom skiing. And you have to spend $1,000 before you have to register with the FEC. And then what I read starts to meld together in my head as it gets into filing and filling out the forms for filing and so forth.

From there, it is about what kind of candidates to support. This is a two fold question. The easier of these is whether you are going to support local or federal or both. If it is both, then two bank accounts will need to be maintained. Of course, this begs the question: what sort of platform would this sort of PAC support?

I have a firm faith in my friends that there could be a consensus found for a platform that we would all support. We cover a range of the political spectrum, but I don’t think we are incapable of finding compromise on issues. Obviously, this could be a fatal error to the whole PAC idea, but I have some hope. What I would be looking to support would be pragmatic politicians who could supply sensible solutions to various issues (e.g. energy, education, and other domestic issues) regardless of their political party. This might be the most complicated part of this proposal, but it also might be the most exciting in getting into some good political discussions with friends.

Now, as a nonconnected PAC, you can solict the general public for funds. In looking at the Obama campaign, my take on it would be utilizing PayPal and CafePress. I’d have to investigate PayPal more, but it is an excellent means for collecting money and moving it to actual bank accounts (especially in combination with CafePress). Why CafePress? Merchandising. Bumper stickers, bags, hats, t-shirts, and everything in between. It would raise money for the PAC and it gives people some unique swag. (Ask about our $100 bumper sticker!)  And it is harnessing the power of the internet to boot.

This might be the dawn of a new age of politics. Or something like that.

pretty soon, nothing happened

After being issued the challenge to put forth a budget, the Republicans answered… with a 19 page document that contained no actual numbers. (You can see it for yourself here.) Glenn Thrush from Politico reports that even the release was subject to some bickering as the party members split between actually creating a budget with numbers versus putting *something* out there to win the news cycle. Sadly, a budget is longer than a news cycle. This budget is something we have to live with long after the cameras turn off.

Now, I will admit that, at the Center for American Progress (a noted progressive site), I scored in the ‘liberal democrat’ range on their Interactive Quiz. (Although, it is hard to take a website quiz where you rate issues 1 through 10 as gospel, but that’s another story.) But I’m not a partisan hack. If there is a house on fire, I’m not going to argue about where the water comes from. I want to see all the solutions brought to the table. And this just disappoints in a way that makes me very, very sad.

I used to think I was a Republican in Exile, someone who was driven away by the social conservatives who hold views that I find disagreeable. (The pro-life, pro-death penalty stance makes my head hurt.) The conservatism of my youth (small government, fiscal responsibility) has been replaced by the pragmatism of the absolute cluster fuck of a mess we are in. And if the Democrats and liberals of this country are offering the better solutions, I’m willing to go along with them. For those who think this is a compromise of my values, it might be. But I live in the real world which demands solutions for the moment. And a 19 page critique of the President’s budget without hard numbers is not a solution as much as it is a partisan talking points memo. Like Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Macquire, show me the money.

Maybe I should feel sorry for them. It’s not easy to be a Republican these days. They really do need some time in the wilderness. Or we need more political parties. Or less yelling at the far right and the far left and people like myself feeling like a kid passing notes between feuding parents.

I need a drink.

Update: Vermont gay marriage bill

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

“Douglas Will Veto Marriage Equality

The Vermont governor will veto the marriage equality bill passed overwhelmingly by the state Senate. The margin in the House is also very high, as Douglas conceded:

“I’m sure that legislative leaders would not have advanced this bill if they did not have the votes to override a veto. I will accept the outcome of their vote either way.”

So why Douglas veto? His purported answer is unserious:

“The urgency of our state’s economic and budgetary challenges demands the full focus of every member and every committee of this Legislature.”

He can’t sign a bill and focus on the economy as well? Here’s hoping the legislature hangs tough and a third state legalizes marriage equality. Next up: Iowa. Then back to California, where the legislature already voted for the measure, only to be stopped by a funamentalist-funded initiative.”

Yeah, this “we have to concentrate on the economy and nothing else” mindset is just plain baseless. The best way to describe it would be like this: no one pays to see someone who only juggles one object at a time.

To the death of marriage

Today, the Vermont senate voted to allow same sex marriage. It still has a step to go as Governor Jim Douglas has indicated that he prefers the civil unions that Vermont currently supports. I’m not sure if this means he’s going to sign it since it passed by an overwhelming majority nor does it appear that the legislature would move to override any veto. As noted in the article, this would be the first state to recognize same sex marriage without the prompting of the state judicial system actually reading some of the discrimination laws the legislature passed.

This headlight reminded me of an article in Time I read a couple of days ago about getting the government out of the marriage business. I can’t possibly agree more with this position. As the single most controversial connection with the  religions of this country, it is past due for the government to drop its interest in something so intertwined in spiritual and political semantics.

The basic goal would be reduce it down to the benefits that couples (gay or straight) seek to provide their partners. Leave the word “marriage” to the churchs, synagogues, and mosques; it is a word whose definition is loaded with spirituality. If a church wishes to perform a marriage, fine; if not, fine as well. It is not the domain of government to dictate the rite of marriage in the church, nor should the church dictate who can become a legally bound couple outside of it.

Although, I will confess, the taking of the word “marriage” from the legal document would hurt. I was married in a church, so the spiritual aspect is there for me. But to have the marriage license seemingly boiled down to a civil union boilerplate document (which it really is already if you think about it and how many have been issued) feels a bit off.

But, then again, sometimes doing the right thing can feel a bit off.