Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why Israel Needs to Freeze Settlements Now

An obvious sensitive subject in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the issue of ancestral vs. real homelands.  The land currently occupied by Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Assyrian Christians, the Palestinian Muslims, and Israeli Jews.  For the most part, it has been the real homeland of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.  That is, it is the territory in which they were born and raised, and have called homes their entire lives.

By continuing settlements, Israel is really only hurting the Israeli Jewish population.  While now it may seem like a good way of providing more, cheaper land and housing to Israeli Jews, it is only harmful to Israel and her people in the long run.  Israeli politicians allow the settlement because they are stacking the cards in their hand for future political battles, at the expense of Israeli people, and especially young Israelis.

Although I don't think it is necessarily still feasible, or the best solution, the international community seems to have its heart and mind stuck on a two state solution.  If and when this plan eventually materializes, there will now be thousands of Israelis who find themselves inside of Palestine's legal borders.  They will face the same issues which Palestinians have been facing since the creation of Israel, suddenly finding themselves foreigners in their homeland.  The towns which they have grown up calling "home" and thinking of as rightfully theirs, will suddenly be a part of a Palestinian state.  A Palestinian state which is almost sure to recognize the right of return for exiled Palestinians.  Which means the return of land rightfully belonging to Palestinian refugees that fall within the new Palestinian state.  This can only mean forced relocation of the settlers inhabiting that land at the time.

In other words, the Israeli state's policies on settlement are setting settlers up to go through the same crises of national identity, relocation, and refugee status to which the government is currently subjecting Palestinians.

Until a two state solution is either confirmed or finally rejected, Israel must stop the building of settlements, not only for the sake of the Palestinians, but also for the sake of the Israeli settlers themselves.''
Beyond the Green Line: Israeli Settlements West of the Jordan

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My take on the WikiLeaks debate

Alright.  First of all, let me say I am not touching on Assange's current prosecution, the theories that it is probably being pushed by the U.S. government, or anything else.

I am speaking purely about the debate over the morality, and in particular, the legality, of WikiLeaks and the newspapers it has provided information to, publishing "secret" information.

I am not a lawyer.  But I once had plans to become a journalist, and as such, we studied issues related to this case.  In general, there are three freedoms recognized as relevant to the freedom of press.

First, the right to access.  This is the right of the press to access key information.

Second, the right of protecting sources.  This is the right to maintain sources' anonymity.

Third, the right to publish.

Coincidentally, these three have been listed here in reverse order of their traditional support from the U.S. courts.  Let's break down each issue as it is relevant to Assange and WikiLeaks.

The right to access.  Unquestionably, the courts have maintained that in certain cases regarding a public interest, or an individual's rights, the government has  right to limit press access to information.  For instance, some states do not allow cameras in court rooms.  The U.S. government can control "imbeded" journalists.  The federal government can classify documents (like those released by WikiLeaks) and attempt to keep them from the public eye.

Second, the right of protection.  Many states partially protect this, but many do not.  There is also no federal shield law, meaning there is no "journalistic privilege" in a Federal court.  Also, in most states, the right to shield a source is protected in a bench or jury trial, but not in a grand jury deposition.  This means the federal government could, in theory, prosecute the individuals who illegally gave Assange information and expect him, even compel him, to testify against them.

Third, the right to publish.  This is the most protected right involved in freedom of press.  In short, a media outlet has a right to publish any information that they have access to, assuming that they did not break the law in obtaining the information.  For instance, courts have ruled that a newspaper could publish both a rape victim's name and a juvenile offender's name (both protected by law) because a reporter got access to the information through a lawful viewing of court records.  A court also allowed a newspaper to publish photographs from an execution, although photographic equipment was banned from the execution viewing room.  The act of taking the pictures was illegal.  The act of publishing the pictures once they fell into possession of the newspaper, was not.

In short, the government has every right to force Julian Assange to give up his sources.  They also have every right to discipline those sources, both as government employees violating the terms of their employment, as well as possibly as traitors and/or spies.  If Assange (a former hacker) is found to have stolen the information through illegal methods, it would be a different story.  The problem with this is that because Assange is not within U.S. borders, without accusing him of having violated a serious law, he cannot be compelled to answer questions about his sources.

At the end of the day, though, Assange and the publications he worked with have published information that they obtained legally (it was given to them).   They should not be prosecuted.  The lying, treasonous government employees who leaked the files should.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is it Too Late for Two States?

Ever since I was a child, I remember hearing about the various U.S. Presidents' "Roadmap to Peace" in the Middle East.  It was always my assumption, and that of the mainstream media and government here in the U.S. of A. that the path to peace involved separate states for Israelis and Palestinians, for Jews and for Muslims.  I remember through high school and college the idea of a unified state being laughed off as the international community declaring Israel and Palestine an "international or interfaith Disneyland."

Well, perhaps it is the time to start thinking Mickey Mouse.  The logic here goes several levels deep.  On the most basic level, let's look at the simple reality.  Jerusalem has sites that are among the most holy of all the major monotheistic faiths in existence.  The city could never be split between two countries like Berlin was, because the holy sites are spread throughout the city, as are the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim cultures and populations.

Moreover, even if Jerusalem could be split, we now have the issue of the rest of the land.  The traditionally-Muslim portions of Israel have now been so encroached upon by Israeli settlement, which has lasted so long, that in order to provide a contiguous state to the Palestinians, Israelis would have to be forcibly relocated.  Darkness can not be met with darkness, but only with light.

Moreover, the idea of two separate states should scare Christians, especially Christians living within the disputed areas, more than anything.  By legitimizing political boundaries and political systems based on religion, we validate the idea of a Jewish and a Muslim state.  Where does this leave Christians?

In addition, the idea of two states should repulse anyone with even the most minute sense of "political corectness," "social justice," or Democracy.  Again, by allowing two states based on primarily religious distinctions, we are accepting that religion is an acceptable political boundary.  How can Americans, who oppose discrimination on religious grounds, accept this idea?

Finally, from a practical standpoint, the debate has reached a standstill.  First, the right of return question.  If a two state solution is really being sought, why does the Palestinian Authority care, or have a right to care, about Palestinians within the borders of the newly agreed upon Israel?  With two states, they would no longer represent Muslim interests within Israel, but instead, would represent the interests of Palestinian citizens within the newly defined Palestine.

Most tellingly is the conversation in the pro-Palestine blogosphere.  Palestinians, who are now the ethnic minority within Israel and Palestine, stand the most to lose on a true representative Democracy being established in Israel.  Yes, they would get equal rights, and finally be treated with some dignity.  But their voting power would never equal that of the Jewish majority.  Yet, more and more, they see this as the best path forward.  When the minority in a society pushes for Democracy, rather than independence, it is showing that the peace, dignity, and respect for human rights that come with Democracy are worth sacrificing political autonomy and true self-determination over.  We have obviously reached a new low in the Middle East conflict, and it may very well be time to start thinking outside of the box.  Or rather, start thinking inside the box, and outside of the two boxes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Equity vs. Equality

Being a poli sci major when I was in school, one thing I hated was looking at definitions, statistics, etc. versus the bigger picture.  This particular conversation, however, is one in which the definition is key to the bigger picture and defining issues and "good" policy.

The problem with the left, and even the center, in American politics today, is that there is a sense of "social justice" which uses inequities as an excuse to push for automatic equality for all racial, gender, and socio-economic groups.  Understanding the difference between equity and equality, and the importance of maintaining equity, but also maintaining inequality, in a capitalist system is key to keeping the American dream alive and understanding the proper, limited goal of the government in our lives.

Equality, as it relates to "social justice" and politics is the idea that all people are inherently equal, and equally deserving of everything from liberty to the "finer things in life."  This is inherently false, and a dangerous idea to democracy, and, especially, capitalism and the free market.  The American dream is built on the idea that through creativity, intelligence, natural ability, and hard work, one can set themselves ahead of the masses.  Thus, we all start out somewhere on a scale of unequal conditions, and our goal, our drive to give something to our economy and our society, is to move somewhere up that scale.

Equity, on the other hand, is the idea of a fair distribution of resources, and, in particular, opportunity.  That is, if two people are born in very different situations, but have the same skills, abilities, intelligence, and drive, will both have equal access to the tools needed to fulfill their idea of the American dream.

The left will consistently point out how inequitable our society is.  They point to statistics of the poor barely making it by, sending their children to underfunded schools so hungry that they cannot focus on the lessons taught by unqualified teachers.  They point out that there are few jobs available in minority and poor neighborhoods.

This is all true, and these are issues that need to be addressed.  The left, however, then turn around and in the same breath oppose school vouchers, and support instead the redistribution of wealth that we know as social welfare programs.  They support unemployment, welfare, food stamps, and other programs which redistribute resources to the poor and to minorities.

This does not solve the underlying problems.  While making our society more equal, these programs do little to make our society more equitable.  They take away the incentive to work, while also not providing the infrastructure or education to make it possible for the people in these neighborhoods to work, and to raise themselves out of their current conditions.

Unemployment, poverty, or drug addiction should not be comfortable or pleasant.  It should not be easy.  It should not be secure.  If it were, what would be the incentive to progress in life?

If we want to truly right the wrongs of an imperfect society with an imperfect history, we should remove the funding from social "safety net" programs, and redirect it all at meaningful, effective, educational reform.  From charter schools to school vouchers, what that means is forcing educational institutions to compete for students and funding, even students from low income areas.  By continually complaining about underfunded urban schools, we encourage our officials to reward under-performing districts with increased funding.  Instead, by offering charter and magnet schools, vouchers, and, if necessary, transportation, we have the potential to force real improvement in our education system.  By basing school funding on where parents choose to send their children to school, not based on geographical boundaries, we force school administrators and teachers who wish to keep their jobs to perform.

Although it may seem cold hearted to leave a generation which did not have access to these reforms behind, the best thing we can do to truly make the American dream a reality is to make sure that the current generation is the last to suffer through this.  Make sure that every American child has access to quality education, from educators, schools, and systems which are fighting to remain one step ahead.  Run our schools like businesses.  Make them accountable for the money they spend, and make them compete with the competition.  This is the only way to make them perform.  When our schools perform for all of our students, we will be a huge step closer to an equitable society.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Libertarians and Taxes

So one of the problems with political parties is that they often take broad stances and try to attract many, many people who vaguely or generally agree with them.  I thought that this was the case mostly with the major parties, but it happens with third parties too.  I realized this when I was reading the campaign website of Art Lampit, the Libertarian candidate for Nevada Governor this last election.  In all honesty, I voted for him, because of who the other candidates were, but despite his affiliation with my own political party, I really did not agree with him on a lot of issues.

The big one is taxes.  The official Libertarian stance on taxes is that they are a government intrusion into our pockets and our lives and they should be lowered.

Now, where do selective, targeted tax cuts and tax breaks fit into that understanding?

I can see the argument that any tax break is good as it takes less of our money and gives it to the government.  Baby steps, right?

That to me is what a "practical" Libertarian might think.  You know, the "ends justifies the means" type.  With this philosophy, a tax credit for providing health insurance to employees, or for creating green jobs, or for being a small business, makes sense because it lowers the overall tax burden.

I, however, am what I would call more of a "philosophical" Libertarian.  Beyond taking our money, if we think about why high taxes are un-Libertarian, tax breaks seem like a very un-Libertarian idea as well.  To me, Libertarianism is largely about limiting government to its pre-defined (by the Constitution) and necessary role.  Our government was given the right to collect taxes as a way of raising revenue to perform certain tasks.  Not as a way to manipulate and control our behavior.  Taxes should be a necessarily evil way of raising revenue from ALL citizens and businesses, not a way for the government to encourage or proscribe certain behaviors.

Also, the tax code itself is too complicated, requiring massive Federal, State, and Local bureaucracies to interpret, collect, and enforce.  This in itself contributes to large government.  Adding more loopholes and tax "incentives" only contributes to large government, and increases government spending.

That's why to me, being a Libertarian means supporting a proposal like the Fair Tax or Flat Tax, which would eliminate the IRS tax code, even if it means that the actual amount of money paid to the government by me, or by anyone else, would go up for now.

Overall tax expenditure should be cut by reducing bureaucracy, waste, and intrusion by the government, not by giving tax breaks that reward positive behavior and punish negative behavior.

Friday, November 26, 2010

(One of) The True Meaning(s) of Thanksgiving

So I know that depending on your time zone, this is anywhere from an hour to a day late, but I wanted to take a minute to reflect in one of the real meanings of the holiday many of us celebrated yesterday.

Most of us think of Thanksgiving as a day to be thankful for all that we have, and to enjoy the presence of our friends, our family, and a good home cooked meal.  While this is arguably a more noble cause for celebration than the slew of drunken (but fun) celebrations we hold throughout the year (St. Patrick's Day, New Years Eve, Fourth of July), or the abundance of Hallmark or Hallmark-ized holidays which seem to be about giving gifts and cards (Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Sweetest Day, Bosses Day, Secretary Day, etc.), or even the handful of days supposedly dedicated to hardworking and sacrificing individuals, which we now, without celebration gladly take off of work (Columbus Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, President's Day), it is still an incomplete understanding of the holiday, its origins, and its true meaning.

At least if we buy into the great mythology that we sell our children as American History, this holiday is about a lot more.  It is about us, white Europeans, being helpless immigrants in a foreign land, and our (so the story we all acted out in kindergarten plays goes) gracious hosts offering us their hospitality, their warmth, a good meal, and the knowledge needed to survive in a foreign land.

So isn't it kind of ironic that while we sit around our tables laughing, eating, drinking, and giving thanks with our families, that we are neglecting the people who find themselves in the same position?  Many immigrants (those lucky enough to have the day off) spend the day alone, without their families, and with nothing to do but go to the movies, and maybe grab a bite to eat at the local Chinese restaurant or IHOP.

This time of year should be an opportunity for people on all sides of the aisle to think about the real "first Thanksgiving," and what lessons we can learn.  A people who were decimated by our greed, our disease, and our trans-Atlantic political and military struggles welcomed us into their homeland.  Yet today, even as we celebrate and give thanks for their hospitality, many fail to extend the same hospitality to those that land on our shores and at our airports, and who cross our borders.  Unlike the white Europeans, who brought disease, war, famine, theft of land, genocide, forced migration, and centuries of unequal treatment to our hosts, many of our immigrants come here not to destroy, but to embrace our culture and our way of living.  We should at least attempt to welcome them with the same warmth the Native Americans welcomed the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More Positive Election News from Nevada

So not a lot of the candidates I voted for, or even liked, won here in Nevada.  The election results though, still made me happy in a way.  Reid, who I hated, won, but his son, and most other Democrats, lost.

Why would such a thing make me happy?  Even if they were unwilling to take the leap and vote independent or third party, voters in Nevada at least researched and formed an opinion on the individual candidates.  Clearly, with the election being split between Republicans and Democrats, and very few races being close, this is the case.

People actually looked at the individual candidates, and not just the letter next to their names, and that is a good start.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Good News from Election Day

This may sound odd, but I'm very pleased with election day.  I'm particularly happy that we are now gridlocked, with one house and the White House controlled by one party, and the other house controlled by the other party.  Why, you might ask?  Doesn't that make government inefficient and unable to accomplish anything?

Exactly.  Our two parties have failed to convince me that they have any desire or will to accomplish anything that actually benefits "we the people."  So, with a gridlocked political system, hopefully we can maintain the status quo, and hold off any more Republican attempts at restricting our liberties and Democratic attempts at emptying our wallets for a few years until some candidates who propose real change emerge.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

Hopefully everyone went out and voted.  I know I did.  And thanks to early voters, I walked right in, got my voting card, walked right to a machine and was done with the whole thing in about five minutes.

That being said, many in Nevada were disappointed with our choices, particularly for our Senator.  I thought of it is an opportunity.

Yes, we were asked to choose between a Left-wing nutjob who has cost taxpayers millions and consistently voted to increase government spending or a crazy (possibly clinically so) woman who has frequently associated with Scientologists, supported giving prison inmates massages, and who thinks abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape and incest.

I, however, viewed it as an opportunity to vote my mind, rather than be concerned about voting for an "electable" candidate.  Let's face it.  Either way, we are now stuck with a Senator who is at least one (possibly several) cards short of a deck.

So I voted for Michael L. Haines, and I don't feel bad about it.  Happy Election Day, and I really do hope everyone voted.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Debunking the Myths on Prop 19

I recently read this article on Proposition 19, and think it is a worthwhile read for anyone who is not sure what they think about Proposition 19.

It debunks and invalidates five of the most common and "strongest" oppositions to Proposition 19 and marijuana legalization.  Not to rehash it, but I think the biggest point is this.

All of the debunked objections could just as easily apply to liquor laws in California and other states.  Yet none of these objections have raised serious issues with alcohol or tobacco.

In short, California, take a first step toward ending the failed "War on Drugs," and legalize marijuana.  Vote yes on Prop 19.

Moving Beyond Party Lines to Oppose TARP

Alright.  So, the 2010 general election is just around the corner, and I'm sure that many people plan on voting for candidates they think can get us out of this mess we're in.  A lot of people will automatically assume that means voting Republican.  Think again.

The Libertarian Party recently posted this list of Libertarians taking on TARP-supporting incumbents.  Look past the letters next to your candidate's name.  Particularly if you live in one of the following districts, seriously look into the candidates' views, rather than just their party affiliation.

Alaska (Senate)
Georgia (Senate)
Iowa (Senate)
North Carolina (Senate)

If you live in one of these districts, you are currently represented by a "Republican" who supported the costly and failed TARP funding.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Election Thoughts- U.S. Senator from Nevada

With the general election rapidly approaching, I've decided to give my thoughts on who I will vote for and why in each race in my district, starting with the U.S. Senate race.

Sharron Angle (Republican)
While I am always a fan of voting for the best candidate, regardless of their shot at winning, an obvious pro here is that she is not Harry Reid, and stands a (relative to the other candidates) good chance of defeating him.

Also, Angle is a politician who votes with her conscious.  In fact, she was the lone "Nay" vote often enough that many votes during her stint in the Nevada legislature were called "41-Angle."  More specifically, she was the lone vote against a split roll property tax, because she believed it violated the Nevada Constitution.  She has also sued the state three times using her own personal funds to uphold the state Constitution, including a successful case (although the bill later got the required 2/3 supermajority) to stop the governor from illegally allowing a tax increase with a simple majority vote.

She is also for privatizing Medicaid, as well as reforming social security, eliminating and simplifying the several thousand page IRS code, and eliminating the federal Department of Education to bring education administration back down to the local and state level.

She also believes that the government's job in getting us out of the recession is to create business and growth friendly policies which lead to jobs, not to create jobs or mandate what types of jobs (i.e. green jobs) will be created.


Angle is clearly a social conservative, supporting a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage, as well as opposing abortion, even in the extreme cases of rape and incest.

Angle also abandoned her county board of education seat when her husband was transferred by the Bureau of Land Management from the field to Reno, and I'm not a huge fan of politicians who run away from the commitments they made to their constituents.

She is also sometimes a little shaky on the facts, as when she accused Reid of becoming rich through his time in the Senate, ignoring that he had stockpiled quite a bit of money from his successful legal practice prior to entering office.

Moreover, for someone who consistently rags on Reid for having better health care and retirement benefits than his constituents, it is somewhat hypocritical that she is currently living off of her husband's BLM pension, and receiving federal retirement benefits.  It is also alarming that although she thinks the federal government has too much land in Nevada, and that private citizens should be allowed to benefit from that land, her husband's main duty in the field under BLM was to (armed and dangerously) keep private citizens and ranchers off of federal land.

I would be willing to vote for Angle, but she is hardly a candidate I would get excited over.

Scott Ashjian (Tea Party of Nevada)

I can't really find any pros to Ashjian, since even his own campaign website doesn't have anything similar to an "On the Issues" page.


See above.  Also, like my gripes with the Tea Party movement in general, negativity may be great for creating momentum, but it sucks when trying to run a country.  This candidate has, as far as I, with the help of Google, can discern, failed to tell anyone what he is for.  His entire campaign is based on what he is not, which is a major party candidate.  Although she is a Republican, Angle has voted independently quite often, and at least we have some inkling of what she plans on voting for when in office.

Ashjian also had an arrest warrant put out in March (not sure how this got resolved) for writing bad checks for his small business.  If he can't run a small business responsibly, how can we expect him to manage a federal budget which several successful lawyers and businessmen have failed to manage?

Finally, he was sued over his rights to be on the ballot.  He switched his party affiliation after registering as a candidate.  The Tea Party Express sued over his right to use the Tea Party name without any endorsement from them.


Tim Fasano (Independent American Party)


Fasano is for repealing the 16th Amendment and both simplifying (short term) and lowering (long term) federal taxes.


His positions are a little unclear to me, based on his website.  Although he has a pretty good grasp of the issues, his proposed solutions are a little vague to me.

Also, although I support implementing a fair tax (not to be mistaken with the Fair Tax movement), as well as lowering taxes, the specifics of his proposal offend my Libertarian side.  With all of his proposed write offs and deductions, he shows that he supports using tax policies to punish and reward certain behaviors (health care saving, and environmentally friendly decisions, to start with).  While lower taxes are very Libertarian, tax breaks for engaging in certain behaviors are not.  Taxes are a way for government to raise necessary revenues, not to dictate or suggest what Americans should do with their lives and their money.

Also, looking at his immigration reform page, there is a subtle flaw built in.  He opposes welfare and social benefits to those who are here illegally.  What about those who are here legally?  There is no way we will ever get federal taxes down to his proposed 8.8% if we continue to provide social safety nets, even for those who are here legally.


Michael L. Hanes (Independent)

Haines is for a fair or flat tax.

Haines is also opposed to more government spending.

His views on education, that we need more education for our money, and not more money for education, are very appealing, as are his points on where the problems lie (protecting established universities, teachers' unions, and public schools, rather than encouraging competition).

His proposals on the issues are also brief, clear, and easy to understand.


The biggest thing I have against  Haines is that he is for a fair or flat tax.  While either would be an improvement, and it is good to see that he would support either one, which does he favor and why?  Also, while being brief makes it easy for us to know where he stands, how much does he understand these two proposals, and when he says fair tax, does he mean a tax that is fair, or the Fair Tax as some advocates have proposed?


Definitely a candidate I can support.

Jesse Holland (Independent)

Due to a poorly laid out campaign website, I have a hard time finding what this candidate is for, and thus have no "pros."


Holland's website does not even have a platform, issues, or on the issues page.  His campaign seems to be yet another "against the system" campaign, rather than a campaign for anything.


Jeffrey C. Reeves (Independent)

Reeves is for protecting our Second Amendment rights.


Although his website has an issues area, the links all lead to the same page, a very brief example of zionist media manipulation.  Although I do believe we are too beholden to Israel, this is hardly the only issue, and he fails to address a solution.  He seems to be a one-issue candidate.  Not only that, but his views appear to be rather extreme on the Israel issue, and unlikely to be taken seriously, including his characterization of 9/11 as a false flag attack.



Harry Reid (Democrat)

Liberal on social issues.

Reid is a huge porker.  While this may seem to directly benefit Nevadans, the damage is worse than the benefits.  Before supporting Reid because of all he's done for Nevada, think about how much similar projects he has allowed to pass have benefited other states at the expense of Nevada taxpayers.

As Senate majority leader, he was also instrumental in the stimulus and Obamacare bills.

In addition to Nevada-specific pork, Reid has shown a willingness to try to sneak social policy into bills on defense, spending, or anything else shows a higher regard for his leftist agenda than for our country or its laws and processes.



Wil Stand (Independent)

The candidate either doesn't have a website, or did not promote it very well.  It doesn't even show up on the first page of Google results for his name.


See above.



Overall Conclusion
On November 2, I will be voting for Michael L. Haines as the next Senator from the State of Nevada.  Many people may think I'm throwing away my vote, since if I really want to see Reid leave office, the smart thing to do would be to vote for Angle.  This is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If everyone would grow a pair and vote for the candidate they think would do the best job, the two parties would lose their grip on our system.  Therefor, I will support this independent candidate, who I believe is the best option for our next Senator.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Support Proposition 19!

After seeing this article I was briefly duped into opposition of Proposition 19, the California ballot initiative to legalize marijuana.

Several of the points seemed at first like valid counterpoints to Proposition 19, even for those who support marijuana legalization.

First, the argument that this conflicts with federal law about employer's rights and responsibilities to drug test.  Proposition 19 specifically outlaws pre-employment or during-employment testing for THC unless the employer can prove that an employee's performance was performed.  Federal law requires drug testing for certain professions.  Remember that there is a hierarchy of jurisdictions, and that Federal law trumps State law, especially in areas where the Federal government has a valid, Constitutional claim to jurisdiction.  While there are some truckers, train operators, pilots, etc. who do not cross state lines, the majority do, or, during the course of their careers, could.  The professions covered by the Federal requirement are, for the most part, very clearly covered under the Interstate Commerce Clause.  Thus, the contradiction doesn't really exist.  A pilot, driver, or train operator crossing state lines must meet Federal requirements, including drug testing.

Second, taxation and regulation.  While I think that one of the biggest selling points has been the tax and regulate potentials of legalization, I don't think this is what is important.  As a principal, we should have the right to choose what to do to our bodies.  Moreover, the legalization would still raise tax revenue, even without marijuana-specific taxes.  The trade in marijuana, especially in the state of California, is huge.  Even without specific taxes on cannabis, the sales tax revenue alone could greatly help California's budget.

The argument that the smell of marijuana could be offensive, and everyone can have an outdoor 5x5 garden.  The smell of trash and dog poop is offensive.  The smell of curry is offensive to many.  The smell of some other plants, or of compost bins, is offensive.  People will just have to survive.

The argument that this will increase crime, citing recent break ins at medical marijuana growth plots.  This is actually one of the best arguments for legalization.  If marijuana were more readily available, and could by grown by anyone, people would not have the incentive to break into someone else's plot to steal their pot.

I have always been a proponent of supporting a specific policy, not a broad slogan or a general principle.  But legalizing marijuana is the first step.  Let the legislature iron out the details later.  The immediate benefits, from the perspectives of politics, liberties, and economics, far outweigh the negative.  The medium-term benefits of lowering incarceration rates for non-violent drug offenses alone will provide huge economic benefits to the state, especially in a state whose current prison overpopulation was recently ruled to be cruel and unusual punishment.  Californians, vote YES on Prop 19.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Even Bureaucrats Oppose Bureaucracy

I caught this article a few days back and was thrilled.

You know big government is too big when bureaucrats in charge of big government regulatory agencies are opposing proposed power grabs.

The head of the FCC recognizes that the Fourth Estate's independence is essential.  When a career regulator speaks out against a proposal to increase their own regulatory and financial power, you know something is wrong.

If only the people in charge of money, health care, insurance, and other parts of the public sector had the honesty and integrity that Attwell does, perhaps we wouldn't be in the mess we are in.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why Obama Dems and Tea Partiers are Good for America

It may sound odd to hear someone supporting both Obama and the Tea Party.  In fact, I actually support neither.

But I do see the presence of both as a positive force on American politics.  Although I would ideally like to see the rise of a legitimate third party, and a system which was not inherently controlled by two parties, I recognize that this is unlikely to happen, and especially to last, with our current system of government.  If, however, we are going to have a two party system, it is important that there really are two parties.

Can anyone tell me with a straight face that the Democratic and Republican parties are really that different on politics?  Can anyone clearly define the basic, philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats?  In doing so, do they not expect me to be able to find any exceptions sitting in elected offices?

"Blue Dogs" and "RINOs" are great for getting things done.  They are great for "working across party lines."  In reality though, they blur party lines, and their dominance of the American political system right now essentially fails to represent U.S. voters and their views.

Both parties have moved so far to the center that we really have no choice.  You can vote for someone with a D next to their name, who opposed the war, but thinks we need to "support the troops" by continuing our foreign occupation and further endangering our troops' lives, supports bailing out banks and auto-makers, and thinks gay marriage and abortion will come when society is ready.  Or, you can vote for someone with an R next to their name, who supports the war, but thinks it is time to wind it down, "opposes" bailouts in general, but thinks that banks and auto makers are "too big to fail," and thinks gay marriage, DADT, and abortion are too touchy and personal to be addressed by our current legislature, especially with the pressing economic situation.

Really, from a practical point of view, what is your choice?  The votes will go the same way.

The extremism of Obama's socialist-leaning Dems and the far right Tea Partiers is opening a real debate and providing real options to Americans at the ballot box.  Turnout in this midterm election will be high, as it will in 2012.  By providing real options, we are re-engaging America in politics.  This is exactly what establishment Republicans and Democrats are afraid of.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hypocrisy on the Left (Again)

This post had me smiling the other day.  First of all, I'm not a huge fan of Jesse Jackson to begin with.  Maybe I'll put up a post some day on that.  Second, though, the karma train just pulled into its station.  The only thing better would have been if something had happened to Al Gore's jet on the way to some global climate conference.

In addition to his divisive and one-sided race-baiting, apparently Jesse Jackson is also supporting the big government scam of "green" job creation.  Meanwhile, he is driving around Detroit in an Escalade.  Well, the Escalade is now missing its wheels, a window, and probably some expensive stereo equipment.  Building parts for a car that gets well under 20 mpg hardly counts as a "green" job.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Third Parties and Run Off Election

Recently, the Libertarian Party posted an article (I failed to read it in its entirety) pointing out that polls are now showing several Libertarian candidates in Georgia getting enough votes in November to lead to runoff elections.  At first, I did not see how significant this was.

Thinking about it, however, I now see that this is a huge step for Libertarians, independents, and third parties in general.  Talking to many voters, they often acknowledge that the views of third parties (usually Green or Libertarian) are actually closer to their own political beliefs than those of either major parties.  In election cycles where this thought prevails, particularly in election cycles like the current one, where there is huge discontent with the status quo and the party in power, the opposition party usually spends time and money trying to portray third parties as stealing necessary votes from close races.

I have always maintained that it is more important to vote for the best candidate, even if it does, in fact, steal votes.  The harm done by one elected candidate in one term is nothing compared to the damage to our society and nation done by a failing two party system over a period of several centuries.  By voting for third parties, every vote is another vote of confidence, and will, eventually, contribute to either the fall of the two party system or a change in the two prominent parties.

Runoff elections, however, provide us with an opportunity for an even more concrete gain from our "wasted" third party votes.  Essentially, the prospect of a runoff election provides voters with an opportunity to vote for the best candidate without risking pushing the worst candidate into office by "wasting" votes.  For example, if Georgians are confident that there will be a runoff election, they can express support for Libertarian values and candidates in the actual election.  Although the Libertarian may not win, they will cause a runoff election.  The in-power Democratic candidate will not win the first round of the election.  Libertarians can then vote in the runoff for the "lesser of two evils" candidate.

We should take this opportunity in Georgia, and wherever else it presents itself this November, and use the elections not as a referendum on the Democratic or Republican Party, but on their two party system as a whole.  Vote for the best candidate this November, and then vote for the "lesser of two evils" in the runoff.

The added bonus of this is that by forcing a runoff election, we force the two major parties to spend even more money than they already do on this election cycle, emphasizing just how much time, effort, and money it takes to coerce votes from people who really aren't happy with either option.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Immigration and the Latino Vote

I have never understood why being liberal on immigration has been linked with the Latino vote.  In fact, I think it is often more about the perception of the nature of the conversation than about the actual contents of it.  Both politicians and Latinos should read this post and think carefully about what is written.

For Latino voters.  Liberal immigration policies and lax enforcement actually hurt your self interest as legal, documented Latinos in this country.  By increasing the number of illegal aliens in our country, we increase the negative perception of Latinos in general, and the stereotypes of Latinos as falling into the category of illegal or undocumented.  If you are voting, you (or your family) presumably either came here the right way, or, at the very least, have since rectified your immigration status.  The jobs which undocumented immigrants are taking are jobs which, if you can legally vote, they are taking away from you just as much as from white or black Americans.  And, unfortunately, they are negatively affecting white and black Americans' views of you.

For politicians, bloggers, etc.  The way the immigration debate is carried out is part of why Latino voters are so uncomfortable with strict immigration policies.  Partly because of an extreme right fringe which is prejudiced and racist, partly by human nature to blame things on people who have obvious differences (race) from us, and partly by the attempts of the Left to make conservatives all look like the Klan reborn, the immigration debate too often becomes a racial conversation.  While most illegal entries are probably over the Mexican border, there are a lot of immigrants in our country who enter legally, but overstay their visas.  Many of these immigrants are white, and European.  They are often working, and receiving the benefit of publicly funded services, before their visas expire, and just continue on that way.

Also, for immigrants, and the first and second generations, understand that there is bound to be sympathy for the situations which cause Northward migration.  Many Latino immigrants are coming from countries where the political situation is unstable at best, dangerous at worst.  Many come from poverty.  Many who come from poverty have made great lives for themselves and their families since being here.  They want to see the same opportunity extended to other people.  The key to winning these votes is to focus on enforcing existing immigration policies, but not closing the door to immigration altogether.  A wall, both in reality and symbolically, is not just about illegal immigration.  It is a barrier between us and the several nations which make up our closest neighbors.  Latino voters, who feel a connection with their home countries, as well as can relate to the situation of those trying to enter our country, are unlikely to emotionally jump behind a wall or other attempts to cut off all immigration.

Finally, Latinos are not a unified, homogenous group of people or voters.  Latin America and the Caribbean consists of many national and ethnic groups.  Lumping all Latinos together does not encourage Latino voters to jump on board.  Moreover, special treatment for some Latino groups is unlikely to win the hearts and minds of Latino voters as a whole.  For instance, many Mexican and other Latin American groups are offended by the current (albeit unavoidable without either Puerto Rican independence or full accession into the U.S.) situation with Puerto Rico.  While Latinos from other parts of the hemisphere are accused of stealing jobs and benefits from Americans, and sometimes profiled by law enforcement or employers as "illegal," Puerto Ricans pay no taxes to the United States, but vote in federal elections and have unrestricted movement throughout the 50 states.  Another example is Cuban-Americans.  Although this has changed recently, for decades, Cubans have been treated differently than other Americans.  The policy was always that if a Cuban had one foot on American soil, they were automatically a refugee.  This was a political, more than humanitarian decision.  This can easily be seen by looking at the different treatment of people fleeing oppressive regimes in Chile, Nicaragua, and Haiti, where the U.S. government supported the governments.  Moreover, many immigrants come here seeking refuge from situations, whether political, military or economic, in their home countries.  The Republican Party and its pandering (especially representatives from Florida) to the Cuban-American interest groups does not help their perception with the wider Latino voting community.

So, how can Republicans win the Latino vote?

Focus the conversation.  Don't open yourselves up to being called (out loud or silently) racist.  Make it clear that the issue is about enforcement of existing laws, and national security, not about protecting our culture or our society from an outside, racially separate influence.  It is not about Spanish language or Latino culture.  It is not about whites losing majority status in some states, and possibly the nation as a whole.  It is about not condoning the open violation of our laws, and about ensuring our national security.

Make sure to speak about immigrants in general.  Illegal immigration is not all Mexican and Filipino.  Talk about not just border enforcement, but visa enforcement.  Rather than only deploying more troops and agents to the border, let's talk about visa enforcement in places like Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, and various tourist destinations around the country.

Encourage equal immigration standards.  Cubans and people from some parts of Africa should not be given blanket refugee status while people from other corrupt, unstable, or poverty-stricken parts of the world must go through standard immigration proceedings.

Overall, widen the conversation to include comprehensive immigration reform.  Although his name has become somewhat taboo, McCain did not receive a huge backlash from Latino voters because of his immigration policies.  In fact, even Bush didn't.  Along with enforcement, talk about modernizing and updating our laws to reduce the burden, and increase the efficiency, of legal immigration.   Don't just shut illegal immigrants out.  Provide a clear pathway for legal immigrants to come in.

This is how conservatives can demonstrate that anti-illegal immigration positions are just that, and not anti-Latino positions.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mexican Independence Day

Happy Mexican Independence Day everyone.  I sincerely mean that.

I also, think, though, that after 200 years of being nominally independent, it is worth reflecting on how independent Mexico really is right now.  Every day in Mexico, people die in the battle between the cartels and the Mexican government.  Each year, prominent public officials resign in fear or resignation to the cartels.

Each day, Mexican nationals die and get arrested trying to cross Mexico's northern border.  Each day, Mexicans go hungry because tortillas and other staple Mexican foods are too expensive.

Now, no nation is without its problems.  On their independence day, however, Mexicans should take a moment to reflect on where these problems have come from.  Is it the policies of the Mexican government, or the efforts of the Mexican people?  No.

It is a liberty-encroaching war on drugs personal choice in the United States.  It is a policy of subsidizing U.S. farmers and encouraging "free" trade in North America and throwing corn, which could feed the poorest of the poor in Mexico, into gas tanks of American-made SUVs (which, by the way, have now been bailed out by the government as well).

So yes, two years of independence is something to celebrate.  But Mexicans and Americans alike today should take a moment to think about how independent Mexico really is.  Stop the War on Drugs, and stop interventionist agricultural policies.  Then, perhaps, we will see a truly independent Mexico.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Where I parted ways with FreedomWorks

Let me start off by saying that I still frequent the Freedom Works website.  I recently read an interview on there that made me rethink my views on the organization and the Tea Party movement.

In the interview, some higher up from the organization (I forget who) kept mentioning that the organization is currently trying to "take back the Republican Party."  Well, here's a few issues I have with that.  The first is that the organization has consistently said that it does not take stances on issues like gay marriage, abortion, foreign wars, etc. because it is focused on fiscal and financial freedom.  Fair enough.  But by not taking a stand on these organizations, and supporting a party which largely does, Freedom Works implicitly supports the Republican status quo stance on these issues, which offends my sensibilities.

Second of all, before overtly coming out as a a movement to "take back the Republican Party," the Tea Party movement and Freedom Works were a sign of hope for real, systemic change.  By supporting any candidate, Republican, Libertarian, Democratic or otherwise, who agreed with them on the issues, the Tea Party movement and Freedom Works represented a real threat to the Republican Party as it was.

In an odd way, openly trying to take over a political party strengthens that party, even the parts of it we don't like.  By encouraging thousands of Tea Party and Freedom Works activists to become active in the Republican Party, the organization is implicitly supporting the Republican Party.  Yes, they may put a lot of fiscally conservative Republicans on ballots and even in office.  But when one of the RINOs they are trying to stop gets nominated, they're also encouraging people to vote Republican, and that RINO will get elected.

What candidates, organizations, and movements trying to change one of the two major parties need to do is show their willingness to give up on that party.  Freedom Works should be encouraging voters to vote Democratic, or especially Libertarian, IAP, or Constitutional, in races where the Republican candidate is not up to par.  By showing that voters are willing to leave a party they don't think represents them, they put real pressure on the party to change.  By trying to change a political party from within, we just show the parties that they need to have barely enough candidates, barely far enough to one side of a couple of issues, to keep Tea Party activists voting.

So instead of trying to take back the Republican Party, show them who's in charge around here.  If the candidates don't meet your standards, look at third party candidates.  Look at independents.  Maybe even take a glance at the Democrat running.  Show the Republican Party that being "better than the Democrats" isn't enough.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Political and Social Reasons Not To Do Drugs

I thought I would take a few minutes to share my thoughts on why, aside from the health and personal problems, and legal risks, anyone, but especially the socially liberal, should not use illegal drugs.

Keep in mind that as a Libertarian, I acknowledge that most of these reasons are more related to the ridiculous War on Drugs and the unconstitutional prohibition on recreational narcotic use in the United States.  Until, however, our current drug policy changes, there are several political, social, and moral reasons why anyone (but especially leftists) should refrain from illegal drug use.

First of all, the violence.  Both on the streets of the United States, and across the world, the drug trade is full of violence and death.  How many people died in the process of growing, processing, packaging, and relocating the bowl of pot that you just smoked?

More important to the leftists, however, is that drugs are really a weapon in class warfare.  I mean that in several ways.  First of all, when was the last time the head of a major cartel or street gang was imprisoned?  I can't remember.  The "major" busts that we read about on the news involve the discovery of large quantities of drugs and money.  Well, in the world these cartels operate in, both drugs and money are replaceable.  So are the poor, who are usually the people (whether in America or abroad) apprehended with the money and drugs.  With technology and financial options becoming more enhanced, when was the last time someone at the top of one of these criminal organizations was stopped?  Even when they are, they serve out their sentences in white collar prisons.  Or, in some foreign countries, like Colombia, where Escobar served, in prisons that are more like personal palaces.  Do you think that anyone was shuttling the street level pushers who went down for selling Escobar's coke to and from soccer games?

Let's look at the classist aspects of the illegal drug trade from start to finish.

Production.  Poor farmers are the most likely to be tempted (or pressured) into growing coca, heroin, and marijuana.  In fact, the class war aspect of this goes back beyond this decision.  Many drug producing regions are the victims of protectionist U.S. agricultural policies.  For years, Latin American countries enjoyed thriving exports of sugar, bananas, and coffee to the United States.  Suddenly, when Asian countries could produce the same products, and gained "favored nation" status, the Latin Americans couldn't compete.  When American countries moved directly into East Asian nations (i.e. Thailand, Indonesia, etc.), often subsidized by the United States governments, Latin American farmers were left high and dry.

These are the farmers targeted by the wealthy individuals behind the Latin American end of the drug trade.  They don't have much to lose, and have a lot to gain.  Because of U.S. subsidies to its farmers and manufacturers, even many products used in their own countries are imported from outside the region.  Due to U.S. and Latin American subsidies, the small farmers cannot afford to compete with the large, corporate farms.  They have small family plots which they are risking, but the gains can be huge.  It is, in fact, these farmers, not the Escobars, Ochoas, or other cartel-heading families, who suffer when fields are fumigated or burned.  The cartels will move on to the next farmer.  The rural poor have lost their crop and their only source of income.

In trafficking, money, drugs, and big players are kept as separate as possible.  This means that the individuals actually carrying drugs across international borders are unlikely to be the wealthy individuals responsible for either the U.S. or the international aspects of the business.  At one time, they were likely to be fairly wealthy, as they probably owned boats or planes.  With improved enforcement of the U.S. border, however, the methods for trafficking drugs have changed.  It is now far more likely that an individual will be driving a car with false panels, or even carrying drugs inside their body.  The "mules" who are recruited to do this are usually poor and desperate individuals, either looking to make fast cash and a paid-for vacation, or looking for the financial means to enter the United States.  At the very least, they put their freedom in jeopardy.  At worst, they engage in physically dangerous methods of transporting narcotics, including swallowing, or inserting into their body in other ways, condoms and balloons filled with highly toxic chemicals.  Meanwhile, the cartel leaders sit at home at either end of the route collecting the payouts.  The violence has erupted (again) in the border cities of northern Mexico.  Do you think the real movers and shakers in the drug trade are anywhere near this border?  Were any of their daughters disappearing on bus rides home from maquiladores in Juarez for the last 20 years?  Were any of their heads found on the steps of an Acapulco night club?  No.  The poor along the Mexican border, and throughout the coastal states of Mexico, are the ones suffering right now.

When drugs hit the streets, again, the drugs, the money, and the key players are kept separate.  The violence of street gangs is directed at other low-level players in the game, and the police often apprehend these low level players, since they are the ones actually making physical transactions involving the drugs.  Meanwhile, gang leaders sit at home and collect the money.

Even drug use is classist and prejudiced.  While middle aged, middle class white users, along with celebrities and star athletes, use the (relatively) safe and pure drugs (cocaine, marijuana, abusing prescriptions, etc.); people of color, gays, and the youth often wind up caught up in more synthetic, processed, and therefor dangerous drugs, like crack cocaine, crystal meth, and ecstasy.

Even enforcement is skewed along racist, homophobic, ageist, and classist lines.  The penalties for crack, crystal meth, and ecstasy use are relatively harsh compared to those for other drugs, with ecstasy (used by the youth, but mostly the upper-middle class white youth) having strangely lenient requirements for crossing from misdemeanor "personal" use to felony "commercial" use.  This leads to a cycle of young, poor people of color being killed by and incarcerated for drug use at a higher rate than their older, wealthier, straighter, and whiter counterparts.

In fact, the imprisonment for drug use among poor youth, and in particular poor youth of color, could very well be seen as perpetuating the racial gap in this country.  Poor teens of color are put into prisons and juvenile detention facilities for relatively minor, nonviolent crimes associated with drug possession.  There, they are locked up with and surrounded by killers, burglars, rapists, and other violent criminals.  To survive, they often must turn to prison gangs.  These prison gangs teach them how to become hardened criminals.  When they are released, they have new knowledge, new skills, and new connections, which enable them to enter deeper into the world of crime.  We send away young black men as kids who may have experimented with, or even sold a bag or two of, drugs.  When they are released, they are criminals, with few options, and fewer inhibitions.

What proponents of drug use need to realize is this.  The real culprits here, and the ones making the real money off of all of this pain and suffering, are not the street level dealers.  They are successful business men, sitting in mansions in California, Florida, New York, Chicago, and around the world.  They have stash houses full of cash, and bank accounts with lots of zeros.  And they are all connected.  So when you smoke a bowl of your (you think) guilt free pot, or do a line of your (you think) safe cocaine, you are actually supporting the same network of wealthy, middle aged men who are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Again, I acknowledge that the ultimate responsibility for many of these deaths actually lies in the oppressive prohibition on personal choice which has been imposed by the U.S. government when it comes to drugs.  We spend millions of dollars, and take millions of lives, in an attempt to control our individual choices.  My first suggestion would be that everyone advocate for a sensible drug policy in the United States.  Until that happens, however, anyone who leans to the left politically, or who is socially and morally conscious, should stop using illegal drugs.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Immigration: Liberalize, Modernize, Enforce

So illegal immigration is a huge buzz subject right now, so I figured I would take a minute to lay out what I think is the ideal immigration plan.  It is a three pronged approach, and all three are necessary in order for the program to be successful.

First, we need to liberalize immigration policy.  Make immigration into the United States by those seeking opportunities for gainful economic activity easier.  Free flow of information and people is key to a successful free market economy, and we must make our borders more open to people who can add to our society, whether by taking jobs considered undesirable by many Americans, or by providing skilled labor or an educational background to their employers.  Or, for that matter, by offering their labor at a lower rate, and thus serving to balance what is an increasingly inflated labor market in the United States.  Liberalizing immigration policy also makes it more obvious that the type of people who still continue to enter our borders illegally are not the type of people we want to have here.

Second, modernize.  Make agreements with other countries allowing us access to certain criminal records of those seeking to enter the United States.  Allow people to apply for visas online, and process those applications online.  Make all visas (even tourist visas) digital, to improve enforcement.  Use biometrics to track people and ensure they are who they (and their documents) say they are at the border.  Also, modernize both the public and government conversation on "border" security.  Borders are no longer only on the edge of our country, or on land.  They are no longer marked by a fence, a river, or a highway.  Borders are present at every international air and sea port in this country.  Borders are present anywhere there is a private air strip.  Border security matters everywhere, not just in California, New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona.

Finally, enforce.  Regardless of whether the laws which prevented them from legally entering our country are the best laws or not, the people who are here illegally are criminals.  Whether they were or were not before, they are now.  Enforce current immigration laws, and do so in a manner strict enough to discourage future violations.  Enforce the laws intelligently, too.  Don't just patrol border cities.  Follow up on tourist and seasonal work visas.  Did these people leave the country?  This goes back to modernizing.  Instead of a simple stamp on a passport, or a separate piece of paper, visas should be digitally available information.  At best, this would allow ICE to track down anyone on an overstayed visa.  At the very least, if this were linked electronically either to the passport itself, or to an electronic card required of anyone using a foreign passport as ID, it could greatly impair those on overstayed visas.  For instance, if they tried to go get a driver's license or state ID, their license should expire when their visa expires.  If they try to renew, they would not be allowed to, and ICE agents could be notified.  If they try to fly, they would not be able to check in (except to International flights) with an expired visa card.  If they try to open a bank account, or conduct any other business which requires an ID, their visa status would become clear.

It may sound odd that a Libertarian would propose tougher immigration enforcement.  First of all, keep in mind that I do advocate a more open immigration policy.  The new enforcement would be of less stringent requirements.  Second, anyone who has read or seen anything on human trafficking lately knows that in addition to many who are here for their own purposes, many individuals who are not properly documented, or who overstay visas, are not here on their own accord anyway.  Following up on every overstayed visa would greatly improve the likelihood of discovering and rescuing trafficked women and children.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Legalize It!

The other day, I saw this interview at Reason on marijuana policy, and it caught my attention.  Could our decades old losing "War" on drugs finally be coming to an end?  With the issue appearing on the ballot in California, and mainstream medical and mental health professionals (even some, like Dr. Fichtner, who have a government background) coming out in support of legalization, we could be there.

Poll numbers show that increasing numbers of Americans support, or at the least, don't oppose, the legalization of marijuana.  In fact, I'm guessing that polls, petitions, and other actions actually underestimate the number of people who strongly support liberalization of drug laws.  Many drug users (especially the stereotypical paranoid pothead) do not publicly support legalization because they don't want their names associated with a taboo subject, and one which could have serious legal, professional, and personal ramifications.

Do I agree with Dr. Fichtner that marijuana legalization is the key to pulling us out of the recession?  Not entirely.

I don't think pot is the next technology or real estate sector.

On the other hand, by legalizing marijuana, we could probably reduce federal and state budget deficits.  Prisons would be less crowded, ICE agents could focus on stopping human trafficking, potential terrorists, and hard drug trafficking.  Local law enforcement agencies would not be paying officers to search high school students' pockets for pot and pipes.

Moreover, the tax revenues generated by adding this product to the above ground market would be huge.  The savings to the average user would also be significant, possibly providing some sort of stimulus spending on the pothead's part.

The lowered medical and law enforcement costs from reduced gang activity resulting from removing the most used illegal substance from the black market would be huge.

Is legalized pot going to save our economy?  Probably not.

Will it help, even a little?  Absolutely.

Is this just one more reason to add to an already long list to support legalization of marijuana and an end to our War on Drugs?  Absolutely.

Californians, potheads and Libertarians everywhere are watching you this November.  Continue to lead the way on this issue.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Paul Ryan's views on social medicine

I saw this over at Conservative Outpost, and it was quite interesting to me.

I think that Paul Ryan is on to something here.  Many conservatives use arguments involving Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to point out what is wrong with Obamacare, and, in particular, the ways in which the cost estimates for the system are likely lower than the realistic costs of the program.

Why, then, when these conservatives were in office, were all three of these programs continued (and sometimes even expanded)?  If Obamacare is truly evil, guess what, so are these other government-run healthcare programs.  When we take back Congress this fall, prove to the public that you're not all a bunch of right-wing Christian nut jobs, and save us some money.  Privatize medicine and elder care, for good, and for real!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Online K-12 Education

I am not really sure if this is just a new trend in Nevada, or if it is nationwide, but I have been hearing a lot of advertisements for K12, an online, tuition free, public education option.

I have mixed feelings about this.  From a political standpoint, I think it is great for two reasons.

First of all, I am all for improving the efficiency of any government programs, including public education.  Online education does not carry the expense of purchasing or maintaining a physical school facility.  This could lead to huge cost savings if and when this trend catches on on the large scale.

Second, I am all for parental choice in education.  Especially in a system increasingly controlled by Federal, rather than State or Local, regulations, benchmarks and policies, parents should have more say in how their children are educated.  Especially in Nevada, a state where many people are employed in the 24 hour gaming and tourism industries, this also has the potential to increase parental involvement in their children's education, since online education is not limited to a traditional daytime class schedule.

On a personal and social level, however, it is important to acknowledge that academic knowledge is only part of the educational experience.  Socialization, and the learning of social norms and skills that comes with it is another huge part.  There is an (in my humble opinion) alarming trend toward ignoring this aspect.  From eliminating recess and physical education, to starting online education, we are shying away from the social development aspects of traditional education, in favor of test results to get children into increasingly competitive higher education institutions, so that they can better compete in an increasingly competitive job market.  Through numerically-based Federal programs like the No Child Left Behind Act, we are leaving behind no individual children (at least on paper), but we are leaving behind the social development which schools bring.

Particularly as video games, cable televisions, and computers have taken children away from live, face to face (sometimes hand to hand) contact with other children, this is scary.  Add to this the realities of our era not being as safe as that in which we, or especially our parents grew up.  Gone are the days for most children of being left outside unattended on a summer afternoon to play with the neighborhood kids.

Test results may look good, but especially as our economy moves more and more away from production and into service industries, social interaction is important.  There is no standardized test which adequately measures or prepares for social interaction.  Practice, social gaffes, and yes, even fights, are how our youth learn what is and is not socially acceptable behavior.  This is what truly prepares them for interaction with customers and coworkers in the real world.  A college professor of mine once said, "Ten years from now, I doubt any of you will remember anything I taught you about Japanese politics.  This class is not really about Japanese politics, or what you learn about it.  It is about teaching you how to learn, and how to think."

The same goes for earlier phases of education.  School is not about learning multiplication tables.  It is about learning study, professional, and social skills which will allow students to prosper in adult life.  Online education fails students in this important regard.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thoughts on Gay Marriage

With the ruling on Prop 8, the gay marriage debate has suddenly been brought back to life.

Well, I figure this is as good a time as any to share my thoughts on the issue.

First of all, the religious right is correct.  Marriage is a holy and sacred institution.  Perhaps, if that is what a particular religion believes, it should not be tainted or disgraced by the marriage of a same sex couple.  On the other hand, what does the religious right think of Rush's three marriages?  Or Republicans who get divorced?

The purpose of marriage (from a religious sense) is the raising of a family, is it not?  So, according to most of the doctrines which oppose gay marriage, these couples should not be using birth control, right?  Moreover, widows, divorced people, etc. shouldn't be getting married if the woman is post-menopausal, and unable to bear children, right?

In fact, in many of these religions, people probably shouldn't be marrying if the woman is employed full time outside the home, right?  After all, women were intended to raise the family, right?

Well, the hypocrisy of the reasoning behind protecting the sanctity of marriage aside, here is my point.  The whole institution of legal marriage is a disgrace to both the sanctity of marriage, and the liberty of individuals.

If a marriage is a holy union, why should you need the government's approval?  What about couples who are in love, who have their creator's blessing, but cannot afford a marriage license, or for whatever reason are unable to attain one?

Some say that the issue is over a word.  A less extreme view of my own perspective would argue that marriage should be changed to a "civil union" or "legal union" for both gay and straight couples, to take the religious fervor out of the argument.

My own, perhaps rather extreme, opinion, is that marriage as a governmental or political institution should be abolished.  There are a series of "benefits," "drawbacks," and other effects which come with legal marriage.  These should each be considered individually, and be up to the individuals involved to decide.

Many of these issues can be addressed with wills and living wills.  Inheritance, hospital visitation rights, organ donations, funeral arrangements, medical decisions, etc. should go to biological family (parents or children), not to spouses, unless a specific arrangement has been made and legally documented prior to the situation arising.

Taxes should be based on living arrangements, not based on personal or romantic relationships or emotional attachments.  Roommates (regardless of their domestic arrangement) who choose to live as a household should be able to file taxes as one, regardless of whether or not they are "married."

Health insurance companies and employers should decide who is eligible for non-employee benefits based on their policies, not based on a piece of paper issued by a court.

A couple of good examples before I stop rambling.  Many adults never get married.  Some get divorced and stay single.  Some adults have long-term roommates.  For instance, one woman I know has been married, and lived with her roommate for 30 years (almost as long as she has been married to her husband).  They pay bills together, pay rent together, and share groceries.  The roommate recently became unemployed, and is now being supported by my acquaintance and her husband.  When the couple was raising their child, the roommate was there to support them and help them.  Their daughter describes it as "almost like having a second mother."  From a financial or tax standpoint, is she any less a part of their household than the husband?

Gay or straight, people should have the right (and responsibility) to make choices regarding individual financial, legal, and medical decisions.  These should not be lumped into one institution, under a name borrowed from religion, and based entirely (at least in theory), on an emotional, sexual, and romantic relationship.  Leave "marriage" and "unions" up to the people and their churches, and let the state worry about specific transactions.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Murkowski Resolution's Failure

I caught this over at Freedom Works, but I had a little bit different, and more (long-term) positive read on it.

Hopefully, rather than speaking specifically to bi-partisan opposition to Cap and Trade (although that would also be nice), this is showing a greater understanding of and respect for the separation of power from our legislators.

The executive branch of the United States government, including all of the regulatory agencies which fall under it, is supposed to execute the policies outlined by the legislative branch.  It is not designed, intended to, or allowed to pass legislation or policy independent of the legislative branch.

Unfortunately, our legislature has bought into the idea of a bureaucracy of experts (more often a bureaucracy of people with good connections), and has given away both their right and their responsibility to legislate.  If people wanted experts on environmental policy with no accountability to the public to have final say on environmental regulations, we would have elected people with those qualifications to public office.  Instead, we want the people we elected to make laws for us to do that.  And we want to have the power of the ballot box to hold them accountable.

Unfortunately, the Resolution failed.  Fortunately, it was closer than expected, with even Democrats supporting it.  Hopefully soon our legislators will start legislating, rather than pawning their jobs off on bureaucrats.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gay Community Blinded By Partisan Politics

I saw this letter to the editor recently, and it caught my eye.  Let me preface this by saying that this is just one example of what I'm sure is a widespread problem.

First, let me point out that the blog this was found on is run by an organization specifically geared toward bringing together gays and the Republican Party.

Second, let me point out as a disclaimer that as a Libertarian (yes, a member of the Party, not just a blogosphere "Libertarian-minded" Republican), I offer a simpler solution for gay and lesbian voters.   The Libertarian Party is, in fact, the only political party I'm aware of that actually explicitly supports gay rights to marriage and other gay issues.

But, realizing that most voters are registered with (or tend to vote for) one of the major parties, lets' get back to the overall point.  Prominent gays and lesbian, gay and lesbian organizations, and the gay and lesbian media, tend to unequivocally support and endorse Democratic candidates.   This may have made sense a few years ago, but given recent political trends, I wonder how wise this is.  First of all, many Republicans, including candidates, are Republicans because they are sick of government spending, not because of the Republican stances on social issues.

On the other hand, Democrats seem less firm in their support for gay rights.  Has our Democratic President taken a stance yet on gay marriage?  Don't Ask Don't Tell?  We elected one of the most "progressive" presidents we have ever had.  He wants to provide free health care for everyone, raise taxes on the rich, etc.  Yet, he has said in the past that he does not believe gays should marry.  Granted, he wants to leave the individual decision to states, not the Federal government, but does that matter?

If the LGBT community continues its blind support of the Democratic agenda, we will simply elect state legislators who also oppose gay rights.  As Right Pride rightfully points out, there are a number of Republicans in office and running for office who have been vocal in their support for the LGBT community and/or LGBT rights, and a number of Democratic public figures who are vague at best, and anti-gay at worst.  Yet, the larger LGBT community continues to support the Democratic Party.

LGBT Organizations and the LGBT media (Human Rights Campaign, QVegas, etc.) are doing a real disservice to the gay community by continuing to blindly support Democrats in politics.  While perhaps many gay voters tend to lean left, the role of these organizations and media outlets should be to advise politically based on the common factor affecting their membership and readership, namely sexual orientation.  A specific candidate's track record and statements on LGBT issues, not their partisan affiliations, should be the grounds for endorsement by LGBT organizations and media.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Free Market at Work

So for everyone who thinks that the government needs to be involved in protecting valuable resources, this article may come as a surprise.  The exact same industry which is accused of endangering king salmon is paying for the study to determine if, in fact, they are responsible.  The free market does, in fact, provide incentives for private industry to become the guardians and safe keepers of our natural resources.  In fact, with a direct stake in the outcome of the study (both in terms of public perception of their primary product, and availability of other potential products), the pollock industry will probably make more of an effort to ensure that the research is completed in a timely way.  Moreover, with funding coming from a limited, and private, source, the study will be more likely to be completed in a cost effective manner than if the government could simply give another grant out of an over-inflated bureaucratic departmental budget.  Kudos to the pollock industry for funding this study.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Affects of Socialism in Europe

I saw this earlier this month and found it interesting.  When advocating for tax increases, increased welfare, or socialized medicine, the American left tends to always point toward Europe, and the supposedly higher standard of living, or at the very least, quality of life, found in Europe.

Having traveled to Europe, it is true that their lifestyle is much different, much more pleasure based, and much more relaxed and happy than our lifestyle here in the U.S.  Or at least in major U.S. cities.

Looking at the numbers though, it soon becomes clear that this is an unsustainable lifestyle, at least as executed in Europe.  Yes, European youth have more free time to explore themselves and the world around them.  Partly because they have a 25% unemployment rate.

While this may seem okay, when the economy takes a dip, where do the funds to support the unemployed youth, vacationing workers, and retired pensioners of Europe come from?  And what is the incentive to be a part of the other 3/4 of the European under 25 crowd, that is, the part of the crowd that works?

The riots in Greece and the bailout talks in the E.U. show the dangers of building a system on public aid and welfare.  The numbers show just how much of a facade the image of backpacking European youth and happy public employees is.