February 2009


Last December, one of the last decisions made by the Bush Administration irked us to the highest extent: the Right to Conscience bill allowed pharmacists and other health practitioners to refuse any woman the delivery of her usual contraception method in the name of their own conscience, hereby making a dangerous link between abortion and contraception (reinforcing the belief that life begins at conception, not birth). The Obama Administration is now seeking to “rescind” the bill – with the possible hope of reaching a bi-partisan compromise.

Consience: women have it, too. © IPAS

Consience: women have theirs, too. © IPAS

The Chicago Tribune reports that seven states – among which California, Illinois and Connecticut had filed against the controversial measure, alongside two familial planning groups, arguing that belief and faith would prevail over health issues and personal lifestyle choices. Two specific cases brought attention to the disastrous consequences of the bill – the refusal to deliver an emergency contraception pill (ECP or ‘morning after pill’) by a local pharmacist forced a Texas rape victim to carry on with the pregnancy. The bill was supposed to protect doctors and pharmacists from prescribing surgeries or handing out medication that would go against their ‘conscience’, a broader term use to bypass a religious affiliation. Despite the outcry it provoked among women’s rights groups, the right to refuse a treatment according to ‘conscience’ has been enforced for thirty years.

At a time when this so-called decision is followed by the abortion ban enforced by North Dakota, the Obama Administration is carrying a solid and continuous pro-choice policy. The ban on abortion funding has been lifted in January, and the North Dakota bill will be taken to the Supreme Courts by the state’s Democrats. Rewriting the right to conscience bill means giving more opportunities for health education and aims at limiting the dangers occurring in unwanted, unplanned or non-medically safe pregnancies.  The administration is once again seeking bi-partisan opinions and comments on the topic as it might create another uproar within the House Republicans.  Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, a Utah-based member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has criticized the health-cared field for its “discrimination” against personal beliefs and religious convictions. In place since 2005, and about to leave his position, Leavitt often expressed his support for the bill, like he did in a blog post in the summer 2008: “Our nation was built on a foundation of free speech. The first principle of free speech is protected conscience. This proposed rule is a fundamental protection for medical providers to follow theirs.” According to Leavitt, pro-life health practitioners are forced by the American College of Ob-Gyn to perform abortions against their own conscience and thus discriminating against their beliefs.

Always a territory of controversy, subjected to harsh debate between the Republicans and the Democrats, the right to abortion has never seen any tranquil days. As the Obama Administration begins its four-year term with a very comfortable majority in the Congress, Republicans are using every decision as lethal weapon against the powers-that-be. Here’s to hoping the Administration will carry on walking steadily on its pro-choice path. Being refused medication by a health practitioner who swore to Hippocrat he would serve for the well-being of his human peers goes against the specific and extremely fundamental belief of being understood, taken care of and respected as a woman. The social trend lately that has simmered into national politics is that of refusing a woman the right to decide of the future of her own body. The various attempts to overturn Roe vs Wade are becoming alarming. Women are losing control over themselves and over their lives with decrees and bills instauring a collective conscience superior to that of their own vision of themselves as an individual. They are losing the right to self-determination. It is indeed a problem of conscience. It is indeed a problem of discrimination. A choice doesn’t mean that only one option is available. A choice mean that all options remain open. Suppressing this choice is closing all doors and opportunities. Suppressing this choice means suppressing the right to make a decision for oneself. It is suppressing independance, plain and simple.

The new administration’s officials explained that they aimed to “make the rule clearer” as to what health practitioners could “reasonably” refuse to patients.  Finally, reason seems to prevail and choices restored to those who ought to make them. It’s a huge sigh of relief today as this liberticide decision gets a chance to be discarded.

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Thanks to One Young World, we will report live on the Global Humanitarian Forum discussion currently taking place at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, with Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. The four biggest defenders of human rights and global justice are joining a discussion today that promises to create a list of priorities for the Copenhagen Convention at the end of 2009 when the Kyoto protocol will have to be renewed. BBC’s Nishai Pillar insisted on the importance of hosting such a global and important event in South Africa as the South needs to make its voice heard in the debate surrounding what could create the largest inequalities challenge in the third millenium.

pretoria1

Environmental concerns have often been marginalized next to allegedly more important issues such as human rights, third world development and security issues; it’s only recently that it appeared all those issues were tightly linked and co-dependant. The presence of Mary Robinson, a former EU commissionner for Human Rights, appeals to that concept that human rights can not be accessed if the current climate situation maintains a seemingly incommensurable difficulty to access fundamental resources, such as water. If “justice” is encompassing equality, terms must include the possibility for basic health conditions and the protection against the inevitable consequences of a rapidly changing climate. The North, pursuing academic and scientific research for several decades on the subject, must work with the South in order to shrink the shameful divide between the two hemispheres.

It is hard not to be impressed by Kofi Annan’s insistance on the presence and involvement of the youth in the discussion – it is indeed about decisions we will be required to make soon. It’s such a recent topic, though, that has been brought to mainstream attention in the last couple of years. The lack of education available on the subject is disturbing. Here’s to  hoping that access to this conference is going to shed a lot of light and democratize the global discussion on climate justice. Mary Robinson, former Irish President and EU Commissionner for Human Rights, is making the link between respect of human rights and climate change, something that had yet to be made. Those in the South depending on regular weather patterns, as Tutu mentioned, are now in deep poverty. Said patterns no longer exist. It was absolutely necessary to have both agendas set on parallel lines are working in the same direction. She’s not afraid of denouncing the “inequacy of the situation” – Africa being responsible for only 1% of greenhouse gas emissions, but suffering from the biggest consequences – and to call for principles of climate justice.  The new Convention must draw a concept of self-discipline for european and north american governments. It’s a pleasure to listen to her be so authoritative on the question of responsability.

Responsibility was the keyword of the panel discussion, often repeated as participants slammed the complete leniency shown towards polluting companies. “Money collected by polluters should be used towards a global fund for sustainability and information”, said Kofi Annan. So far being a polluting company is pretty financially rewarding. It’s time to put this money to good use and try to reverse the process by redistributing this wealth towards something constructive and efficient. Research is inefficient at this point, or disregarded as those suffering the most from the greenhouse gas effects are poor countries that do not contribute to the global wealth enough for the North to take notice. Stressing the importance of Kyoto follow-up is important. There wasn’t enough commitment, especially from the US, to implement the rules created by Kyoto. I think Copenhagen needs to be more strict in the way it plans on pressuring countries to respect those limitations. As Jo reported on her live Twitter, “We need political leadership with ambition that goes beyond the next election.”, Annan said. We are indeed lacking in a strong political voice that would speak in the name of climate justice with all the issues it creates and implies. There is a lot of dissonance and disseminated voices failing to reach a global consensus on something that has to be worked out at an international and supranational level. There is no place for egoes and national interest when talking about the dangers some countries are facing because of these inequalities and the growing decrease of water. It’s extremely worrying, yet we keep on postponing the discussion because it makes the political consensus uncomfortable just staring at the amount of damage done.

The first question – “how can we make the Top 6 respect climate change when it fails at respecting basic human rights law” – is the question that has been at the back of a lot of minds for a very long time. I had most certainly hoped that by linking climate justice to fundamental human rights, a sort of collective awareness would have risen, but the events of the last five years – wars in the Middle East and in Afghanistan – have proved that human rights are never at the top of governments’ priorities, and that a global suffering from climate change resulting in more injustice and inequality wasn’t going to rise some political leaders from their slumbers.  As Archbishop Tutu said, “we are faced with an interconnected crisis. The recession is not an excuse for inaction on other crises.” Let’s not underestimate the horror and the downfall of this economic crisis, but I agree that this doesn’t mean everyone has to leave the room to tend to their own businesses. This crisis is global, consequences are global, which means answers have to be global. A recession doesn’t mean going backwards in time either. The crisis posed by climate change and the failure to uphold human rights law are just as real as the recession; fighting wars is not going to help anyone’s budget either. A recession is probably a good time to re-assess priorities and question legitimacies. If anything, it’s an excellent time to discuss what we are going to do and how budgets will be spent.

In what I believe could become a regular series on this blog, here is the new installment of the project of GOP reform. After a warning issued by Utah’s very own Jon Huntsman Jr that the Republican Party might soon become as irrelevent to the America of the 21st century as the Tories are in the United Kingdom, it’s now the House Republicans’ turn to take the final blow. John Boehler, House Minority Leader, is wearing his schadenfreude on his sleeve: “How to schedule the energy reform in the House? I have no idea. I’m not in the majority.” Cue recomforting pat on the back.

John Boehner: calling the waaaambulance

John Boehner: calling the waaaambulance

Let’s face it, it may not be easy being the minority those days, when the majority’s popularity comes as easy as product placement. The GOP is the Pepsi to Coca-Cola, it’s the Burger King to McDonald’s: we still have them around, for the sake of the good old days, for what they represent to an older generation, for the sake of simply being able to choose – but no one would ever deny the overwhelming popularity, quasi-hegemony of the other brand.  The GOP will quickly become a vintage antique in New York’s Lower East Side thrift stores if it carries on refusing the inevitable: change. Change they refused to believe in, but it happened nevertheless, and political races are all about momentum. Wait, what momentum? The Democrat’s hold on the House is near absolute, which doesn’t give the Republicans much leeway for lawmaking. Reduced to tagging along and keeping silent, Boehner is shaking his head in disbelief at the short and painful downfall suffered by the once-almighty party. He’s still clinging on to the hope that a party in the opposition tends to rise from its ashes at the first opportunity for conflict, and Boehner already knows that the bloodshed over the stimulus bill is far from over. “We will have an opportunity to talk about this probably every week for the next 18 months. As this money begins to roll out, some of it is not going to meet the straight face test. It is just not going to happen, and trust me, you will know about it.”

Or maybe we wont. The dissonance is strong in the Republican Party, so much that every point Boehner could possibly make can be counteracted by someone in his own camp. House Republican Whip Eric Cantor wants the debate of the stimulus bill to be over. Embarassing at best, a waste of valuable time at worst, the GOP received word of deadly attacks by the press and public opinion accusing the Republicans to drag their feet when necessary measures have to be made. The question of federal spending might be the new administration’s sorest point, but Boehner might be in another minority – the one willing to debate on every bill. It also appears that Republican Governors don’t necessarily want much to do with their Capitol Hill brothers (Huntsman told the Washington Times, ” I don’t even know the congressional leadership. I have not met them. I don’t listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential—completely”. Ouch!) Faced by an extremely powerful Nancy Pelosi and a President slowly leaning away from attempts at bi-partisanship, the Republicans appear to refuse, deny, object, and oppose for the beauty of the principle.

What the GOP needs is to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh’s vain and empty attempts at controversy. This is not what Coco Chanel had in mind when she said that elegance is refusal. Refusal without ideology and without decent alternatives is nothing short of childishness. Waiting for Obama to stumble upon hardship or worse, to fail altogether – regardless of the fact Republicans will be on the sinking ship with everyone else – is not constructive. It’s not going to rebuild the party or grant it the credibility it so desperately needs. What the GOP needs is a thinker, an idealist, a builder – in short, a leader. A charismatic figure to gather round, a strong voice to unite with, an ideology to stand behind. Amidst the loud and lewd cacophony heard from Utah to Massachussetts and from Alaska to Florida, no one is standing up to give Boehner something to throw back at us Democrats, buoyant, pro-active and strong as ever. Why do I even bother? I could just as well lean back into my chair and eat popcorn while watching Bobby Jindal humiliate his colleagues on national television for the ninth time today. I could crack a karma joke at Mitt Romney, who was just robbed. Yet I firmly believe that no thought process can  be complete without a contradicting voice.

I might be just handing out a baseball bat to a bully, but I appreciate a fair fight. The question of government spending is on everyone’s lips. Obama called for restrictions and control, but as Boehner righteously pointed out, questions remain as to how the Democrats will pay for their $410 billion omnibus bill. Obama has alread gone so far ahead in the power scheme that the only thing Boehner and his pitiful consorts have left to do is to keep on saying “no”. It’s a recipe for failure, as they paved their own way with dischord and disagreement in times when conservatism could have meant more than an economic ideology. The Republican Party failed to address the American people’s need for a political and social life model. They’ve never really stepped out of their Congress pedestals, and Governors were too busy launching their own political committees to address a crunching and crushing middle-class. I feel for Boehner. I keep having this mental image of a tiny man wrapped around Nancy Pelosi’s finger. I used all my weekly empathy allowance on a man losing at the musical chairs of politics.

But I’m not so far gone in my sympathy to call for a do-over. I’m ready to move on.

Thanks to schmiss @ ontd_political

Barack Obama told the entire nation at his inauguration: “And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.” Kansas Senator Carolynn McGinn heard the call and declared that the death penalty was too expensive for a state to keep, in rough and dry times.  McGinn is bringing up the debate as the trial for the murder of an Ark City teen is likely to end with the defendant, Thurber, sentenced to the capital punishment.

Carolynn McGinn: killing people, yes, but only at a cheap price.

Carolynn McGinn: killing people, yes, but only at a cheap price.

Attorney General Steve Six seems to believe that the capital punishment is fundamental to the smooth running of a judicial system and shouldn’t be falling down the trap for mere budget constraints.  “The death penalty structure we have is a responsible one and I think one that is supported well by law enforcement”, he said, yet acknowledging the tremendous costs suffered by the state as murder trials are “intense” cases and require a thorough and complete involvement of the state’s justice department. Kansas wrote off the death penalty in the early 1970s, but reinstated it in 1994, without ever using it. Is a proverbial punishment always commuted to life the “responsible” application of the death penalty Six was mentioning? “The big concern for me is one the law enforcement, public safety side, there are some things you just can’t cut”. A safety net for law enforcement, a hypothetical and hardly efficient coercitive methods could justify a 70 to 80% increase in financial costs for the cases (compared to non-death penalty cases), according to McGinn.

Kansas is facing a terrible deficit as the southern state is reportedly on the brink of a $200 billion shortfall. McGinn argues that cutting on the death penalty is not going to infringe on the efficiency of her justice department, but simply cutting down on unnecessary costs.  “The fact that we have life without parole now, is very important because we can still protect society from individuals that commit such heinous crimes”, she said, reassuring Six’s followers that her decision is motivated solely by financial reasons, and is certainly not due to any laxism on her part. “We want to make sure we have laws on the books that provide citizens safety from people that can be harmful to society”.  Death Penalty Info reports that Kansas is spending about $740,000 on average on a non-death penalty case, compared to $1.26 million for a case involving the capital punishment. (*)

In the words of Jamie Kilstein, must it take an economic crisis to realise the value of a human life? Is it valuable to do the right thing for the wrong reasons? As strange and terribly orwellian as it seems to put a price tag on a human body, it becomes the core argument at the heart of a moral and social debate dividing the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1974. Legal texts (such as the Convention Against Torture and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), international non-profit organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as national research centers like the Innocence Project had all fought a battle of ethics, of soul and of mind that finally was won and overcome by the supremacy of the dollar. A collective conscience might be appeased when Senator McGinn successfully relieves Kansas from the threat of the capital punishment, but it unfortunately won’t have the same brilliance and humanism as Illinois Governor Ryan’s words in 2005: “I’m going to sleep well tonight knowing that I made the right decision. Because the Illinois death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious – and therefore immoral – I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death”.


(*) A summary of Kansas’ cost review can be found here.

California state Assemblyman, Tom Ammiano, has introduced a bill calling for the de facto legalization of marijuana in the state of California. This bill has been introduced primarily for economic reasons. The assemblyman hopes a tax on legalized marijuana will add to California’s draining resource pool. [See California’s recent budget crisis for further details.] Now that a state has had a publicly put forth bill with some serious merit behind it, the debate about legalized marijuana should be opened for wider discourse.

Inherent Article Bias: I am pro-legalization of marijuana. As a social libertarian, I am a firm believer in the rights of adults to put what they want in their bodies on their own property. From an addictive [marijuana is not physically addictive] and lethality [marijuana overdoses are virtually impossible at this point, though this may change as the THC percentage continues to increase – it is still unlikely but I will not rule it out] standpoint, it’s ridiculous to actively keep a drug like marijuana illegal while tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol are all legal. I am not a tobacco or marijuana smoker, and I do not use illegal drugs. I have been in favor of legalization since I was 13 years old, have taken a variety of clinical drug abuse education classes starting at a high school level, and continuing through university, and I have a BS in political science / psychology, complete with pharmacology classes. Please do not bother with your dirty hippie / pot smoker arguments. I do not recycle everything I own or smell like Patchouli.

Main Article

Marijuana has been a popular topic in the United States news lately. Sources ranging from the libertarian magazine, Reason to the Main Stream Media, like CNBC, have turned an eye towards the growth of the marijuana industry, and started to discuss openly the need to take another look at marijuana policy in the United States. While there exist a variety of arguments behind the legalization movement of marijuana, this discussion will focus on utility, medical uses, farming, and tax revenue. The pointed focuses of this article are in part directed in part to the need for California to look for further uses for this plant, as their water levels have dropped recently, combined with federal directives/judgments that decrease the availability of water for farming.

Utility

Cannabis is a very useful plant. As hemp, the uses of cannabis are exceptionally varied. It can be used in rope, cement blocks, clothing, wallets, sails, as food [the fatty oil is especially excellent for birds,] biofuels, as a natural weed blocker, and as ingredients in beauty/health supplies. If you were contemplating sustainable farming, cannabis sativa would definitely be near the top of your list. [While there are other plants, such as olive trees, that are also multi-useful, Cannabis is much hardier and will grow almost anywhere.]

The United States does currently import hemp for various reasons, but it doesn’t differentiate between the legality of growing marijuana and hemp plants. Only hemp as a material is allowed in the country, while plants, and seeds are currently banned. Our current deforestation rates could be decreased if we legalized cannabis. Cannabis could supplement or supplant many traditional uses for wood, such as housing needs, and paper. [A little trivia: There is a theory that one of the major proponents of making marijuana illegal, William Hearst, did so because he was invested in wood based paper making, and did not like a threat towards his profit margin. As he was well known as a “yellow journalist” the idea that he would invent a scare to sway a decision in his favor is likely.]

An additional threat to forests exists as large sections of our natural forests are currently being destroyed by cartels who grow Cannabis Indica in the woods due to the illegality, and thus profitability of, marijuana. Due to the increasing difficulty of smuggling drugs over the Mexican borders, the drug growth was moved into the United States. With a movement towards legality and openness of growing, Americans, and specifically California residents where the majority of these actions are taking place, can remove some of the incentive to perform such acts.

The second variety of Cannabis, the Indica strain, has substantially different uses. It can be used as a recreational drug that helps alleviate moods with less side effects than alcohol, enhances religious ceremonies, and has a variety of medical uses.

Medical Marijuana

Marijuana is classified in the United States as a schedule 1 narcotic with no medical use by the federal government. This classification is higher than cocaine, morphine, and many types of opiates, and amphetamines.

That marijuana has medical uses should really be a foregone conclusion at this point. Marinol, the trade name of dronabinol, is a synthetic THC drug with a 98 -99% rate of delta-9THC mixed with a sesame seed base. Right on the DEA’s own website are the words: Medical marijuana. [The DEA article fails to point out that among the 400 chemicals also present in marijuana are chemicals that mitigate some of the reactions to THC which is why psychotic reactions in Marinol users happen. Also, that while no medical drugs are smoked, some certainly are inhaled through nebulizers, and that while marijuana has shown some weak links to a few cancers, it has also been shown to decrease tumor size. Duplicitous assholes.]

Marijuana can be used as treatment for glaucoma, chronic pain, anti-nauseant for cancer chemotherapy, used to promote appetite to combat wasting syndrome associated with AIDS, and now may be a powerful tool to fight MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) Yet this drug is still listed as a schedule one, no medical use, drug by the federal government.

Medical marijuana legalization in a number of states starting with California, have been a reaction to this illogical drug policy. Thirteen states currently have legalized medical marijuana use with two additional enacting laws that lean towards medical marijuana. [Does your state? Check specific laws here.] A move by California to legalize marijuana across the board, in place of simple decriminalization which has been seen in a few states, would continue the court war already being fought between the state and residents of California and the Federal Government, hopefully to the benefit of all the people who need the help. [May Peter McWilliams smile upon us all.]

Farming

This is a slightly different approach to the usual discussions of legalizing marijuana. Currently, a good percentage of marijuana is grown indoors primarily due to the nature of the illegality of the plant in the United States. This has allowed an impressive degree of direct control over the environment of the plant, creating a variety of different strains tailored for medical conditions. This type of direct environmental control is important to regulate what outside influences enter the system of people with illnesses, and will likely become an important future criteria in localized farming. [As the popularity of organic products have already shown.] Even if marijuana/hemp was legalized, this practice would most likely continue and hand society a great benefit, a large group of people with ready knowledge about hydroponic farming.

Within the next decade, it has been predicted that global warmth effects will increase, changing the rainfall and temperature of several already water-deprived areas such as Arizona, and New Mexico. While cities like Phoenix have water plans in place, including water hoarding, and the local Intel plants recycling 1/3 of the water they use the increase in populations continue to grow at enormous rates, straining their resources. This near future strain on water resources, combined with the current trend towards an increase in city dwelling, indicates the need to increase farming in urban areas.

Hydroponics is one answer to producing food in non-traditional environments. Profits and techniques from hydroponic farmers of marijuana could be utilized to increase the prevalence of food resources. Genetic variants in food are one step, but farming techniques also need to adapt. Projects such as the one seen here in Singapore highlight the usefulness of hydroponics in an urban setting. Under the legalization of marijuana, farmers will still produce innovations in farming that will benefit the population as they continue to search for the best growing methods in a variety of places. Legalization of marijuana will also encourage others to begin a deeper study of hydroponics without the worry that they will be visited by the government under suspicion of marijuana cultivation.

Tax Revenue

Tax Revenue could be collected through different scenarios. California is proposing a flat tax per ounce, but a better system would be a slightly more complex one. At the current cost rate, it will be likely a marijuana tax will evolve into a “sin tax” rate of 10 to 15 percent on marijuana purchases, which will take into account the vast differences in prices for the different varieties of marijuana. Additional tax revenue can also be collected through farmers, licenses on sellers, and/or marijuana related products.

All marijuana farmers can be required to have a license to grow the plant. The licenses can vary in cost, and complexity according to whether it will be for personal use, or sale of the plant. It may also differ according to medical, recreational, or industrial uses of cannabis. The highest license fees would most likely fall on those who intend to sell for recreational usage. As with alcohol, and tobacco, while you can distill or roll your own, most people will not be interested in the hassle involved when they can simply pick up marijuana at the store. Medical marijuana users are highly unlikely to have the ability to grow the complicated strains needed to treat their specific illness.

Additionally, tax on marijuana paraphernalia is already in place, despite the confusing laws surrounding the sale of such items. With marijuana legalized, shops that sell items such as bongs, pipes, rolling paper, and the like can operate freely, and produce a nice tax revenue to the government without the off-set cost of random prosecution.

Right now, the United States faces a deficit of about 10 trillion dollars and climbing. The deficit clock actually ran out of space. Marijuana, for medical and recreational resources will most likely bring in 6 billion dollars a year in taxes. Additionally, the cost of no longer prosecuting marijuana offenses will most likely free up 7 billion dollars that can moved towards another realm of needed social spending. Social costs of marijuana prohibition: See here and continue here for additional information about the War on Drugs.

Conclusion

The social costs may be more difficult to measure but for many who have had their lives ruined by mandatory minimum sentencing for possessing marijuana to the increased drug wars in Mexico that are partly funded by marijuana to one family’s loss of their beloved pets and humiliation that spurned a cause to action, a change in marijuana policy will come as a relief.

The history of how marijuana became illegal is a long one, and abounds with conspiracy theories. At the most basic level, the idea that marijuana is inherently an evil drug, or acts as a gateway to harder drugs is illogical. The idea that a person who uses one drug might use another drug doesn’t really argue for equal treatment of all drugs under the law. Citing the possibility that a child might use a drug superseding the rights of adults, a majority in this country, is silly – it is the responsibility of the parents to prevent drug use, not the state. Furthermore, it has been it could be argued that teenagers have an easier time getting marijuana than alcohol due to the lack of proper age verification needed for purchasing marijuana.

While marijuana may not save the world, as farming will become more difficult, and more costly in the future, marijuana may be a tool to help offset the new challenges faced by farmers, both in new revenue streams, and increased crop flexibility. The many uses of the cannabis plant open a wide range market for crop sales, and the already profitable, and wide market for recreational marijuana use can be a boon to the farming industry. [Just don’t let Monsanto and friends patent it all.] Healthier and in some possibilities only treatments for vicious diseases that will likely increase as the population continues to age will help usher in a safer standard of living, while the increased liberty of an ease in the drug war will benefit us all.

For more information about marijuana: http://www.mpp.org/library/

See a timeline of marijuana: http://www.a1b2c3.com/drugs/mj004.htm

Edited with a few new links garnered from the Agitator. Thanks!

It’s not just the name of a band: it could also become the name of the current battle of ideas taking place between Utah Senator Chris Buttars and Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr over the extremely sensitive issue of gay rights. Both Republicans, both leading a state known for its conservatism, those two benchmen could possibly be the best public representation of the socio-political divide within the GOP.

Chris Buttars, political Grinch

Chris Buttars, political Grinch

A little background story: 67 years old Chris Buttars has decided to stand by Bigotry, firmly holding its hand and never letting it go. Hardly has a senator provoked that much ire among his peers: he was removed last week from two committees (chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee). Publicly speaking on the matter whilst a previously signed agreement bid him not to, his position of leadership was thus compromised. Not one to hide his contempt for minorities behind a meter-thick layer of political correctness, Buttars compared the gay community to radical islamists and calling them “the greatest threat to America”. It is now easy to understand how this constitutes a violation of a silence agreement.  It’s not a whisper – more like a rebel yell. Buttars retaliated on the GOP blog by reassuring his anti-gay fellows that “this action will not discourage me from defending marriage from an increasingly vocal and radical segment of the homosexual community”. Breathe a sigh of relief, Utah, an increasingly vocal and radical segment of the GOP now takes the stage.

The story reads like a Greek tragedy. Enters side stage, 49 years old Jon Huntsman Jr, pushing personal conviction aside and standing with ideology, that of Progress. Voicing his support to Equality Utah, which had tried to breed a ‘Common Ground Initiative’ bill in favor of same-sex civil unions, Huntsman, whose career did not always include the gay segment of the population, expressed the opinion that equality is a concept going far beyond the issue of gay rights. It encompasses a political and social discipline that should not be restricted. Talking to Towleroad, a pro-gay online magazine, Huntsman declared: “I’ve always been in favor of greater equality. […] I’ve always thought that we were a little bit behind in terms of equality for people born under the same constitution.” Summoning the Founding Fathers may have been fashionable lately (from their alleged understanding of “natural born citizens” to the possible amendment of the Constitution regarding gay marriage), but at least Huntsman is doing it for a positive and noble cause. Equality takes center stage.

This division of equality versus security, of conservatism for the sake of it versus progress for the unavoidability of it is a chorus we’ve grown accustomed to since the presidential campaign. The schism endured by the GOP and temporarily poorly mended by the choice of Sarah Palin as vice-president was just as efficient as like a band-aid over a wide and deep wound. The influx of Republican thinkers such as Caroline Kennedy towards Obama’s camp must have seriously stung. Propulsed by the unforeseeable success of Prop 8, Republicans are made aware of their precarious position: a terrible recession engineered by an irresponsible economic policy is feeling a little too heavy a cross to bear. Displacing the fight on the quicksand territory of social issues is the only possible way for them to survive and reassemble their disseminated flock through the next four years.  Are those the first signs of secession? Are we witnessing an incurable auto-immune disease within the seemingly unbreakable foundations of the Republican Party? Taking a closer look at the rhetoric employed by Utah’s leaders, reconciliation appears a long way away.

Jon Huntsman, Jr: Christmas, everyday.

Jon Huntsman, Jr: Christmas, everyday.

“In recent years, registering opposition to the homosexual agenda has become almost impossible. Political correctness has replaced open and energetic debate. Those who dare to disagree with the homosexual agenda are labeled ‘haters,’ and ‘bigots,’ and are censured by their peers”, complains Buttars, obviously peeved by the alleged restriction imposed on his freedom of speech. Opposition to the “homosexual agenda” does not constitute debate, it constitutes repression. It appears to Buttars that censorship and approval swung their axe the other way, and his side of the spectrum was asked to walk on the scaffold. Adding to this dumbfounded paranoia comes the media-based conspiracy theory already denounced by Sarah Palin, that we little folks have been brainwashed by the liberal, mainstream press and television telling us the difference between right from wrong, a privilege until then reserved to Republicans. “Increasingly, individuals with conservative beliefs are targeted by a left-leaning media that uses their position of public trust as a bully pulpit. This pattern of intimidation suppresses free speech.” Intimidation? Bullying? Censorship? Those are very strong words to be used by someone who declared that a considerable fringe of his own fellow American brethrens were a “threat” to this great nation. Are we talking about creating a second, lower class of citizens?

Huntsman Jr. believes that a generational overhaul is in order. Unafraid by the bold move he made comparing the GOP to the UK conservatives, the “Tories”,  he qualified them as an “angry bunch of narrow-minded people”. It does ring a bell. There shall be no more talk of aggression and retaliation, of conspiracy and lack of compromise. For Huntsman, the divide in the GOP is not due to a fundamental crisis in ideology, it’s not the moral downfall of November, it’s not due to the GOP’s expenses during the campaign; this shipwreck is not imputable to Bush’s mistakes either. It’s a question of renewal and of transmittable knowledge. “[The Tories] started branching out through, maybe, taking a second look at the issues of the day, much like we’re going to have to do for the Republican Party, to reconnect with the youth, to reconnect with people of color, to reconnect with different geographies that we have lost.” It may hit a severely sore spot, but there is no denying that John McCain failed to approach and connect with the young graduates, the young professionals, a generation with a distant memory of Bill Clinton yet still bruised by eight years under Walker Bush. Appealing to the paragons of virtue and morals that war veterans and so-called “Joe-the-Plumbers” represented for America, the GOP blatantly ignored and scorned the population which represents the biggest demographic yet: that of change, people facing decision-making on a daily basis, at the crossroads of their lives, in need of a practical and non-judgemental guidance. People that have been hurt or misrepresented in the past, people that would need more leeway, who refuse to be addressed in a condescending manner. People who have been patronized and refused entry to their professional and personal dreams. This is the button Barack Obama pressed constantly during the campaign, that sealed his victory. If Joe Biden can bridge that generational gap, sure Buttars can.

Only the future will tell whether Huntsman could lead the way towards a Republican Party willing to drop the Great Old Party banner and reform its non-sequitur ways. Buttars’ discourse, complete with factual innacuracy and flawed logic, could never appeal to a broader audience in 2009. It may have saved California, Florida and Arizona from the wrath of the Mormon God, but even this is not enough to answer the real, and realistic, issues faced by the American people today. It may not have been the case in the past, but this just came in – young people do exercize their right to vote. They do so eagerly, with the promise of being heard and taken into consideration. Young people do try to insert themselves into adulthood and face their responsabilities, the consequences of their actions, and the respect they owe to their elders. Ideals and ideologies are contagious and can spread like wildfire. This is especially true of liberty. Let’s hope that Huntsman has a plan and the necessary followers to carry his vision a little further and restore a sensible quality of discourse to the Republican Party so we can finally engage into a real and consequential debate.

The world is angry, friends and brethrens; and it’s amidst this palpable and boiling fit of wrath surrounding the western world in those dire times of recession that the filth – also known as “right wing blogosphere” among the technocrats – is revealing the worst of its nature. Among those Dick Cheney fans has elevated a man, called Selwyn Duke (I wish I had made that up, but alas I didn’t); and this man is definitely competing against Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh for Biggest Douchebag of 2009. Granted, I would have loved to come up with a more imaginative title, but as succinct as this one might be, it manages to convey all the spite and scorn the rest of the aforementioned blogosphere feels for this man who has obviously been raised at the Court of Henry the Eighth, and failed to pay attention to the time passing by. Semi-autonomous Collective, which name should be enough to rise Mister Duke from his slumbers, has decided to exercize its right of response, standard protocol in press, in order to help Sir Selwyn achieve the level of modernity we are all expecting of His Grace before he dares exposing our informed minds to his non sense ever again.

Selwyn Duke, pretending to think. So, he hates women and hates the gays - what does he do for fun?

Selwyn Duke, pretending to think. So, he hates women and hates the gays - what does he do for fun?

Without further ado, I am bringing you a wonderful quote of his, excerpt from his 2004 “essay” (*) on women, a kind he has obviously hardly been acquainted with:

It occurred to me a while back, as I thought about my chauvinistic teasing of a woman who is very close to my heart, that I had stumbled into genius. For if you’re looking for a litmus test for a prospective wife there’s none better then that of the tweaking of the modern female ego. All you need do is utter words such as “You do that very well . . . for a girl” with a twinkle in your eye and a boyish smirk on your face, and observe what ensues. Her reaction will tell you more about her than any computer dating service or impromtu little encounter session ever could. For as sure as night follows day, the degree to which her reaction is negative will be directly proportional to the degree to which she’s been inculcated with feminism.

Mind you, those words are to be taken to the first degree, as ignorant and insulting they might be, which I am sure Selwyn Duke was perfectly in agreement with. Unsatisfied with the inflated sense of supremacy his endless perception of self-entitlement is giving him, Selwyn Duke also upholds the very distinction of believing his own non-sense. The same way Rael probably couldn’t care less about a landing of aliens in Central France, or L. Ron Hubbard probably relying on a psychiatrist himself, ideological leaders are safe and intelligent enough never to touch their own propaganda with a ten foot pole. Sadly, Selwyn Duke is diving head first into it, letting our minds wander and fantasize about said head diving into a giant pan of boiling oil.

According to the same idiotic pamphlet, Duke comes up with his personal sense of feminism, another one he probably didn’t achieve on the benches of a college course:  “It works like a charm because while feminism has sought to help women achieve parity with men in all areas of life, there is one area where women have not only equaled men but have actually outstripped them hands down: ego.” I find myself dipping my hand in a bucket of self-loathing as I realise I agree with him: women, indeed, seem to have enough pride in themselves never to muster enough arrogance and stupidity to inflict a flawed logic on the eyes of a random reader. Selwyn Duke, however, has been “outstripped” of his “ego” and is perfectly happy with the lack of reflection in his mirror. See the definition of transorbital lobotomy to learn a bit more about the affliction that has plagued Selwyn Duke’s mental development. (Sensitive minds should abstain from any pictorials).

Selwyn Duke could be qualified as one of those run-of-the-mill idiotic mysogynists if he hadn’t managed to recruit a few random followers into his helpless cause. Thanks to urbaniak at ontd_political, who took one for the team in analyzing Duke’s works in deeper layers, we find out that Duke is a simple New York born-and-bred tennis teacher who has unfortunately been gifted with a dictionary in his early years (in his defense, this is more than most GOP-wannabees could ever claim), and chose to dedicate his pathetic and pointless life to edicting another thoughtless praise of ignorance in 2007 with “The offensiveness of being offended“. This could easily become the paragon of sarcasm in this world if only Duke had the IQ to back this up; unfortunately for him and for all of us having to suffer the direct results of a butchered psychosurgery. Following Duke’s dubious reasoning, being offended is akin to being hysterical – in the Freudian sense of the term, how appropriate – and is thus qualified as childishness. Because in Duke’s world, constantly picking on the same group of people for non-factual, non-sensical, non-scientific reasons in the sole attempt to provoke ire is perfectly acceptable in adulthood. It’s not playground bullying at all. In his world, Duke always gets the Golden Ticket, and can always reach for the cookie jar.

Because my attempt is to make sure all undereducated idiots hold their respective hands and leave ours alone, I did a little diggin’ on Selwyn Duke’s background and couldn’t find more than this description: “Selwyn Duke is a columnist, public speaker and Internet entrepreneur whose work has been published widely online and also in print, on both the local and national levels. He has been featured on the Rush Limbaugh Show, has a regular column in Christian Music Perspective Magazine and does commentary on the award-winning Michael Savage Show.” Translation: Selwyn Duke is an internet blogger, owns his own Facebook profile and likes to speak in BSG Conventions.  He has been featured on other likeminded lobotomized radio show hosts, is a bigot and offers his own opinion on subjects he obviously does not master.” Jesus Christ on a cracker, Selwyn Duke is just like the rest of us! How happy would I be to welcome him back in the bosom of worthwhile Internet-based opinion writing… only problem is, I’m a woman (and that’s the least of my flaws).

I am of the belief that one rejects what one is scared of – for instance, there is no denying that after seeing “Jesus Camp”, I was extremely frightened by the evangelical christian lobby. I have perfectly rational reasons to be scared (just watching the trailer might give you more chills than Jason Vorhees himself). It wouldn’t be positively scary if there wasn’t any power to that specific group of people we’re rejecting. If minorities were, indeed, just minorities, a democratic system would allow us to push them away from representation. There is however this thing called “incentive for action”, mostly handed out to said minorities, said under or misrepresented groups. I believe that womankind has had enough of the Selwyn Duke types laughing at the glass ceiling and pointing at their alleged crippling idiosyncracies. Here comes another generaiton of women who fortunately enough have been given the opportunity to rise against this moronic insanity and summon the self-confidence to walk all over them and assert their own dignity. Selwyn Duke is afraid of women, of gays, and of ethnic minorities because they threaten his so-called God-given right to stay on top of the social pyramid as a privileged white man. Times are changing, Selwyn, and it’d be best to jump on the bandwagon before you get painfully ejected on the railroad tracks. Women like me, like us, are seldom called “the Big Satan” in some countries (that I won’t name here not to boggle Selwynesque minds). I’d rather be called a Great Power. I know what I’m capable of under pressure. Are you, Selwyn? Are you? Oh wait: you’re an Internet entrepreneur… I’m so glad we’ll never meet you in government halls.

(*) Quotation marks used in order to preserve the academic world from the insanity that is about to follow.

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