Posted by: trickyguy | March 24, 2009

What a Novel Idea: Legalize Drugs

Today on CNN.com there is a guest commentary advocating the legalization of drugs.  But there’s a new twist this time: it’s not written by some half-stoned pot head or washed up social worker, it’s written by Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist.

Before all you conservatives out there decry him as another out of touch academic liberal, you should read the article.  He makes some very salient points about the amount of violence associated with trafficking in illegal drugs, as well as the massive cost of the enforcement effort itself.

He notes how much violence was associated with alcohol during prohibition, and the near absence of it prior to and afterward.  He also writes about the potential revenue from the taxation of drugs.

These are all points that are hard to dispute.  But are they points that support legalization?  And, do they consider all aspects of the problem?

One can answer these questions by combining and then examining two points of perspective, both used in Mr. Miron’s writing.  First is his assertion that drug use is a victimless crime.  And second is his use of the example of alcohol prohibition.

No one can deny that alcohol is a drug.  Nor can they deny that it is the most commonly used drug in the United States.  (The National Center for Health Statistics reported that 61% of all adults in the US consumed alcohol in 2006.)  So really there is significant evidence available about the effect of legalizing a drug.

For 2005, there were more than 21,000 deaths directly attributed to alcohol abuse, excluding homicides and accidents.  And, if you add to that the nearly 17,000 traffic deaths attributed to alcohol (39% of all traffic deaths), you have nearly 40,000 Americans who died in one year (or one every 13 minutes) due to alcohol abuse.

And those were only the deaths.  Of the 5.3M convicted offenders under the auspices of the corrections system in 1996, 36% had been drinking at the time of their offense.  Two thirds of all domestic violence occurs when one or both participants have been drinking alcohol.

So clearly, use of alcohol is not without victims and not without cost.  And none of this speaks to the lost jobs, the failed marriages, or the child abuse that occurs or is exacerbated because of alcohol use.

Yes, Mr. Miron, there are some good reasons to legalize drugs.  But there are equally as many very compelling arguments against it.

Posted by: trickyguy | March 24, 2009

Cheney: The Hypocritical Dinosaur

For political bloggers,  editorial writers, and late night talk show hosts, some of the personalities in the Republican Party over the last few years have yielded great subject matter.  And none of them perhaps more so than Dick Cheney.

He’s done it again.  In a recent interview with CNN’s John King, Cheney holds forth on topics such as the economic stimulus package and health care reform.  Of course, he does so from an expert perspective because his administration accomplished so much in both areas.

And, for the second time in six weeks, he claims that the Obama administration’s proposed policy changes in the areas of extra-judicial torture, closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and dialog with Iran, will make the United States less safe.

But the truth of the matter is this: despite the use of illegal and immoral tactics, the expenditure of billions of dollars, and the serious erosion of personal liberties, no one can point to a single attack on the US that was actually prevented by the Bush Administration’s War on Terror.

In fact, reality is likely exactly the opposite.  The policies of the Bush Administration were decried around the world, causing a significant cooling of relations with even our closest allies.  They provided huge impetus to a growth in recruiting for terrorist organizations.  And they caused ill-advised prosecutions in the US that were almost universally overturned upon appeal, if a conviction was ever achieved in the first place.

The reality is the Cheney and his ilk presided over the greatest erosion of American personal liberties since our founding.  They sought to increase presidential power to unheard of levels.  They utilized the panic and hysteria following 9/11 to foist on the American People the most un-American policies put forth by any single government in our history.

Their record on the economy speaks for itself.  They adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to regulation of the financial industry.  (In fairness, the Democrats fully supported this approach as well.)  And then, as the sky was falling, they failed to act until somewhere past the eleventh hour.  When they did act, they did so by handing corporations taxpayer money virtually without any restrictions or oversight.

It is easy for Cheney to sit back and criticize the stimulus bill.  Frankly I think many Americans are a bit skeptical that hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending will turn the economy around.  However the Bush Administration not only got us into this mess, but they also failed to act quickly to get us out.  Cheney’s criticism is disingenuous at best, a carefully calculated partisan attempt to derail any hope the Obama Administration has of fixing this mess at worst.

Cheney has nothing to say on health care reform.  In a nation where tens of thousands are uninsured, and where premiums for those who are have doubled in less than ten years, the Bush Administration was notably reluctant to even approach any sort of reform.

I have written before that George Bush will be judged harshly by history, and that will indeed be the case.  But I would observe that Mr. Bush at least has the class to allow the new administration to go about the business of working through the myriad problems our nation faces without him carping from the sidelines.

But, one can certainly not accuse Dick Cheney of having class.  I believe that if you asked Dick Cheney if he is patriotic, he would most assuredly answer ‘yes’.  I submit to you that his criticism of the new administration after only two months on the job is not only hypocritical, but most definitely not patriotic either.

Dick, please do us all a favor and fade quietly into history.  Please.  Now.

Posted by: trickyguy | March 1, 2009

CNN and Gates: Masters of the Obvious

It gets more entertaining to follow CNN every day.  What now passes for news has moved sharply from inane to ridiculous.

Today on CNN there is a short article based on comments by Robert Gates that “Obama is more analytical than Bush”.  For your reference, I will not even provide a link this time.  If you really want to read this drivel, go ahead.

My point is simply this: any idiot can tell, from nearly any angle, that Obama is an extremely intelligent and analytical person.  Bush, on the contrary, as numerous quotes, news stories, and anecdotes have documented, was not.

What was not reported in the article, and what might have added a shred of newsworthiness to the piece, was how this and other differences between the two men changed, from Gates’ unique perspective, how presidential decisions were and are made.

You cannot blame Gates for being circumspect in his comparison of the two men.  It is, after all, what passes for tact in Washington.  You can, however, accurately indict CNN for their lack of good reporting.

In fact, the reason for writing this post was to gore, once again, CNN for their failure to seize a tremendous opportunity to serve us by reporting real news.

Secondarily, and, as one thinks about it, more importantly, such deeper insight into our new president might have afforded a glimmer of hope as the new administration tackles some of the most intractable problems simultaneously faced by a single government in recent memory.

Regardless of your politics, you must admit that how these problems are assessed, what kinds of analyses occur, and how, ultimately, policy decisions are arrived at, are truly important things to know.

Sadly we must all too often rely on what passes for journalism at CNN to get this information to us.

Posted by: trickyguy | February 21, 2009

Dirty Illinois Politics, Round II

Awhile back I blogged on the firestorm related to Mr. Burris’ appointment by then-Gov. Blagojevich.  That blog was in response to my favorite (sarcasm intended) CNN Politics reporter Ruben Navarrette’s absurd notion that somehow if we question this appointment, we are racists.

That blog is at http://trickyguy.wordpress.com/2009/01/15/dirty-illinois-politics-and-poor-journalism/

My point in that blog was that scrutiny and criticism of that appointment was warranted.  Further, I wrote that no matter Mr. Burris’ qualifications, the circumstances of his appointment would always put a cloud over him.

Well, today Illinois governor Pat Quinn called on Burris to resign, noting the “cloud over his head”.  For political bloggers it doesn’t get much better in the “I told you so” category.  And, folks, there’s more than a cloud.

Burris is being actively investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee.  And, the state’s attorney in Sangamon County, Illinois is considering filing perjury charges against him.  All of this is based on the revelation that, after denying anything of the sort, Burris is alleged to have spoken with Blagojevich’s brother about fund raising.

In fact, Burris sought to amend the testimony he gave at the governor’s impeachment trial, acknowledging that it was “incomplete” in this respect.  This is dirty, really dirty.  This is exactly what you’d expect from someone associated with the impeached governor.  This is entirely contrary to everything a US Senator should be.

If the facts prove that Burris did indeed lie, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  He should be removed from the senate and put into jail where he belongs.  Let Mr. Burris and Mr. Blagojevich share a cell, they have so much in common.

Posted by: trickyguy | February 11, 2009

Salmonella Ain’t Peanuts

Executives of the Peanut Corporation of America came before Congress today to answer accusations that they deliberately shipped product known to be contaminated with salmonella.  They refused to answer any questions, instead invoking 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, this is not a situation where three or four people got upset stomaches.  As of this writing, nine people have died and more than 600 have fallen ill in 43 states.  The recall has involved more than 1000 products, making it one of the largest in US history.

Now the Congressional inquiry seems stalled with both Stewart Parnell, PCA President, and Sammy Lightsey, the plant manager, refusing to testify.  In the interest of bagging the real criminal in this incident, I have a suggestion following.

However, who is the real criminal?  Well, there is evidence that Lightsey tried to do the right thing, notifying Parnell of a positive salmonella test result in October, and recommending a shipment be put on hold.  Parnell’s response was “…We need to discuss this … the time lapse, besides the cost is costing us huge $$$$$…”.  All poor English aside, it is clear that Parnell was not concerned with the possibility that his firm’s product was contaminated with a deadly organism; no sir, he cared about profit.

I recommend that Congress and law enforcement officials go after the big fish, regardless of whether it is believed that Lightsey may have broken the law.  If Congress grants Lightsey immunity from prosecution for his statements, he cannot exercise his 5th Amendment rights because his testimony cannot incriminate him.  He can then be forced to testify under threat of a contempt of Congress citation.

I say go forward with exactly this strategy.  Throw the book at Parnell.  We cannot afford the rash of illnesses and deaths that occur when food safety takes a back seat to profits.  Just look at China.  We don’t even want to go there.

Posted by: trickyguy | February 11, 2009

The Latest from Dick Cheney

Dick’s done it again.  Dick Cheney is a blogger’s best friend.  Darn near every time he opens his mouth, it is worthy of comment, and often ridicule.  Follow the link below for an article about Dick’s criticism of some of Obama’s recent decisions.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/02/04/obama-making-us-less-safe-cheney-says/

Dick says that he feels Obama’s decision to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and the other secret CIA prisons, along with ending the torture of prisoners, will make the country less safe.  He goes on in the interview, upon which the CNN article was based, to claim that Bush administration policies kept the country safe from terrorist attack post-9/11.

First of all, Dick is not an expert.  No number of government briefings can make Dick anything other than a big-energy CEO that served as a government hatchet man for eight years.

Second of all, Dick has no proof that the Bush administration actions kept Americans safe in the years after 9/11.  All he can really say with certainty is that no attacks occurred.  Is there any evidence that any were thwarted?  No.  Has the government even claimed that any were?  No.

Last, Dick has no evidence that reversing the policies of torture, incarceration without charge or counsel, and warrantless wiretapping will in any way impact the safety of Americans.  Is there any evidence that closing Guantanamo will increase danger to Americans?  Of course not.  Any such claims are pure speculation.

But what can be said for sure is this: reversal of these policies will return us to being a nation that treats others as it expects to be treated.  It will allow us to occupy the moral high ground once again.  It will show the rest of the world that we realize that when we allow our country to act as those we are fighting, we become no better than they are.

Yes Dick, thanks for speaking out and reminding me why I am so glad that the Bush years are behind us.  No one can say how successful an Obama presidency will be; but any idiot can point to the myriad failures of the administration you were the number 2 man in.

Posted by: trickyguy | February 2, 2009

Bipartisanship: Lots of talk, little walk

There were so many who said that “compromise, dialog, bipartisan, collaborate” were only good words.  I did not believe those folks; I was fully confident that business as usual was no longer going to be the norm in Washington.  Right now, I feel like I may have been wrong.

Americans are closely watching the economic stimulus bill as perhaps the most major early work of the Obama Administration and the Congress.  Are others seeing what I am?

Was this bill not supposed to be designed to save and create jobs, keep Americans from losing their homes, and help those who’ve already lost their jobs and homes?  And wasn’t it supposed to be focused on the most immediate results possible?

I see a bill rife with spending on things that no sane person could possibly see as related to those core goals, and spending on other things that, while laudable, are longer term fixes.

While I imagine that the sod in the Capitol Mall needs replacement, and I certainly support family planning, I cannot reconcile them with the ills this bill is supposed to address.  I love education, it doesn’t help NOW with THIS crisis.  I’d like to see roads repaired.  Tell me how that will help me keep my house.

And I certainly don’t think honey bees have a damn thing to do with turning around an economy teetering on the brink of depression.

And if any reader thinks I am taking the Republican side on this, I think that tax cuts themselves also do not fit the bill.  Tell me how a cut in personal taxes is going to help someone who is unemployed, on the brink of losing their house, wondering how to put food on the table.  How does that keep businesses from laying off thousands more workers?  Do you think Macy’s laid off 7,000 workers today because their taxes were too high?

No, I see no sign of bipartisanship in this bill.  The Democrats have loaded the bill with questionable spending.  The Republicans are doggedly insisting that tax cuts are the way to salvation.  The same old crap: left vs. right, government program spending vs. tax cuts.

What I want from the President is leadership.  Get leaders of both houses into a room and talk about what this bill is and is not.  If I were Obama, I’d threaten to publicly “out” any member of Congress who attempts to slip in any provision that does not meet the criteria for this bill.  I’d make Republicans bring in credible economic experts to justify that tax cuts will really help the situation.

And I would lock the doors until a real bipartisan consensus is reached.  Mr. Obama, that’s why I voted for you.  I want a leader.  Step up now.

Posted by: trickyguy | January 23, 2009

Class vs. Crass (McCain and Palin)

Seems like no matter how hard we try to ignore her, Sarah Palin keeps resurfacing like the proverbial bad penny.  But I can live with that, as long as she is venting on the likes of Katie Couric.  When she takes on a gentleman like her former running mate, that’s worth a post.  Look at the following link to see how, even when he’s being berated by the ever more classless Caribou Barbie, John McCain responds as the true gentleman he is.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/01/23/mccain-says-he-and-palin-plan-to-meet-this-month/#comments

Yes, CNN did me the favor of closing comments before I had a chance to respond.  But you can be sure I would not have been kind.  I just cannot stomach her post-election conduct.

Everything I have heard from Palin since the election is about how others screwed things up.  While you can check my post of January 15th for full details, Mrs. Palin even has the gall to suggest that her team should not have put her onto talk programs after the results of the first one.

That’s bad enough, makes her look totally dumb and out of touch with the requirements of the media spotlight that all politicians must endure, but now she’s blaming the campaign itself.  And, in doing so, John McCain.

Not even OK, if you ask me.  Whether or not choosing Palin as a running mate was a good choice for McCain and party, he certainly did her a huge favor in terms of notoriety and recognition on the national stage.  She had her chance to shine, and she blew it.

And it’s not Mrs. Palin’s far right views that I am talking about.  It’s endless verbal gaffes, out and out ignorance of important issues and the world around her, and a combative, defensive nature that goes well beyond admirable feistiness.  Add to that the attack dog style she adopted for the campaign, and it’s hard to find anything to like about her.

She screwed it up.  She got the facts wrong.  She didn’t read the briefing papers.  She was unprepared.  And she blames McCain??

Whether I agree with his politics or not, John McCain is and has been an honorable servant of his constituents in Arizona and of the United States for decades.  He is a decorated war veteran and former prisoner of war.

He has has more class in his little toe than Sarah Palin has in her whole body.  He is a big enough man to work with the new president on the problems facing this nation, after suffering a humiliating election defeat.  And, even after Palin’s criticism of him, he is enough of a gentleman to compliment her.

She is more crass than a drunken crowd of conventioneers.  She’s said nothing about being willing to work in a bipartisan fashion with the new administration.  And she’s stooped low enough to criticize the Republican campaign itself, never once looking inward for fault.

To all those Republicans who so ardently await her candidacy in 2012, I’d recommend Caribou Barbie spend the next four years in a good finishing school.  Then, see if you have a candidate.  And, in the meantime, tell her to leave John McCain alone — she doesn’t have the right to wash his socks.

And, to all those Democrats who wonder if she’ll run in 2012, this lady is the best chance yet for your party to hold onto the White House for many years.

Posted by: trickyguy | January 18, 2009

Pray For Him Or Wish Him Well

Whatever your religion, party, race, or other defining characteristic, please do everything you can to make our new president successful.

America is a great nation in troubled times.  Our economy is in trouble, millions are out of work.  Our sons and daughters are bravely serving and losing their lives in wars far from our shores.  Our environment is threatened as never before.  Our people are endangered by the dark spectre of terrorism.

The nation has spoken and, on Tuesday, it will inaugurate its forty-fourth president, a man who in so many ways represents change.  It is a fact that this man was not elected unanimously.  It is a fact that some are staunchly against his presidency.  But it is a fact, as well, that no one can say that our great nation is without grave challenges.

So, fellow Americans, is it possible to start by laying down our differences for a moment?  In this moment, can we possibly admit that now that Mr. Obama has been elected and will assume the office, that this nation needs him to be successful?  Can we?

Can we acknowledge our differences, yet celebrate our common ground?  Are we Americans first, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents second?  Do we admit there’s work to be done, and that Barack Obama is the man hired for the job?  If we can rise above our differences, if our common needs are greater than our mutual distrust, then our nation can be great again.

No one is suggesting that there should not be opposition.  Dissent is part of our cherished freedom of speech.  It is part of what makes us Americans.

But while we exercise our right to disagree, can we hope he does well?  Can we pray for him or wish him success?

For if he succeeds, we succeed.  If he fails, we fail.

Posted by: trickyguy | January 16, 2009

Sour Grapes in Philly

Philadephians, I love your city, really I do.  Great food, wonderful history, good pro sports — pretty cool.

But when you whine because the inaugural train is stopping in your city, but the new president is not holding a public rally in thanks for your support, I gotta call foul.  See the link to a story in your local paper about your neighbors who are miffed at Obama: http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20090116_Obama_supporters_let_down_by_Phila__no-show.html#signInAnchor

You see, they seem to think that by supporting his campaign, they are now entitled to special treatment.  A chance to meet personally with the man, no less.

So just what channel are you guys watching anyway?  The way I see it, thousands worked for Obama’s election across the country.  And thousands were rewarded with a win.

Yep, love Obama following the path of Lincoln, starting in Philadelphia as that great man did.  And I know it’s the city of brotherly love.  But do you have to love him in person, or can you accept doing it from a distance as the great, great majority of Americans will be?

Jeez, I thought Congress was whining enough for all Americans.

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