Casey's Dream politics Casey's Dream

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Last time I wrote about the need to end the discussion on the First & Second Amendments once & for all, or at least for some time to come. Liberal thinking recognizes we learn new information and adjust policies accordingly. Taxes have been at the center of the American body politic since our revolution. In fact, they were one of the key issues behind our revolt.
Seriously, we’re still fighting over this. The Sixteenth Amendment was adopted in 1913. Let’s not forget they were the idea of Republican President Taft, introduced by him in 1909 and adopted four years later. Here’s the text: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”
That’s pretty straight forward don’t you think. Under FDR, we had the discussion of whether or not the very wealthy should pay more than the poor should. We have had progressive income taxes since the civil war. However, it was under Hoover & FDR that due to deteriorating economic conditions, significantly increasing income taxes became necessary.
One argument has been that James Madison and other Federalists would be against the idea of taxing one segment of the population at a different rate. This might be true, the first one that was passed set the bar so high [a whopping $4,000 back then] that they believed no one would ever earn that much in a year therefore the tax would never kick in.
That sounds a bit like Alternative Minimum Tax to me. More to the point is we have had progressive taxes for over a century, they are not going away. Back under FDR, we adopted the principle that if you are making the most money than you are benefiting the most from all the government provides. When he appointed Joseph Kennedy to be the first head of the SEC [because he gamed the old system the most] Kennedy brought with him the motto, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Joe Kennedy had an adversary back than by the name of Prescott Bush.
The Bush family hasn’t changed much since then. They felt that taxes should benefit the wealthy so they could make even more money. Simply put trickle-down economics is nothing new. Only back then, they didn’t pretend it would trickle-down, to their thinking creating more wealth is what would make America strong. What’s good for General Motors is good for America was one slogan.
This is the fundamental idea that Robert “Bobby” Kennedy spoke against when he said there is more to a country’s greatness than its GDP. What made America great are the changes that took place between 1932 and 1968. Whether the GOP likes it or not it was during these years that we drastically raised taxes on those who were making the most. It is also during those years that America accomplished many of the things that Americans point to with tremendous pride: The Hoover Dam, The Golden Gate Bridge, The Minimum Wage, and regrettably also the Atomic bomb. We the won the Second World War, We did so by building a new navy, we moved on from propeller powered planes to jets. Then, we went from jets to the moon. We built our interstate highway system and attempted finally to right the wrong of slavery by passing the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. We did all these things with tax rates that would make the modern GOP Headquarters explode like a sci-fi movie effect.
Look I get it. Once when I was an immature man, I had worked all fifty-two weeks without a vacation. Thanks to a raise that year, it was going to be the most I had ever made. Naturally, when I had begun that job I marked off one dependent on my 1040 Withholding Form. After all, I was dependent upon the money I was earning.
I sat down with my one & only W-2, fill in all the numbers, did the arithmetic and voila I owed them money. Not a huge sum, in fact I owed my state less than $10.00. I’m sitting there staring at my tax filing and it says I owe them money. Wait a minute, I worked over 40 hours a week, I did not take a vacation, the government gets the first bite at my pay check and now they’re saying for the thrill of busting my ass for a year I owe them money! I tore up the form and didn’t file taxes that year, or the next. I got caught up when I got married. Nevertheless, I get it our tax system needs fixing.
What we don’t need is to scrap our progressive tax system. It worked wonderfully until we decided that if it was progressive it should be progressive in favor of the wealthy. Reagan convinced the population at large that the more money wealthy people have the more jobs they will create. WRONG! The more money wealthy people have the more money they keep. The kinds of wealthy people we’re talking about frequently don’t hire anyone. They make money by moving money around, phenomenal amounts of money just by moving it around, period.
Chris Rock once made a great joke about who were talking about taxing at higher rates. Chris said, people think Michael Jordan is so wealthy (Jordon had just signed a huge contract), Michael Jordan ain’t wealthy, Michael Jordan is rich. The guy who pays Michael Jordan he’s wealthy. Chris is dead on.
The problem is we have couples jointly earning $400,000.00/year. They’re not Joe Flacco; they’re not making $20 million a year. They’re not George Clooney making the same $20 mil per movie plus points of the gross, or Jon Lester who had a great year and earned $34.1 million dollars. This hypothetical couple making a mere $400,000.00 a year they don’t want to hear about taxes going up. They like being able to tell their poorer friends in the real middle-class, that they pay more in federal taxes than they make. What’s really rich is you can find people in both economic classes that vote Republican every time because of the GOP rhetoric on taxes. Both of whom are voting against their interests.
The couple making $400,000/year needs to give up the idea they are part of the middle-class. That’s a good thing but it’s also not who we want to see paying a more significant amount of money on federal income taxes. Yes, their bill is significant. We used to use the 25% rule. When all was said & done, we would keep 75% of what we earned. Well, when both of your earnings top out at just under $60K/year it means you’re keeping less than $45K. If on the other hand you’re making the $400K, you keep $300K. That’s a nearly seven-fold difference in the two households yet both consider themselves middle-class.
People looking for significant changes in our progressive tax code want to take it back to when it more favored the family making five figures, leave the families making six figures pretty much alone, and shift the burden to those who incomes are between seven and nine figures (& more) annually. They also are not suggesting reverting back to the extremes of the forties & fifties. During those years, they were paying for many of those great things I listed before.
Now we have a hard time raising taxes on any income bracket so we pass regressive excise taxes on commodities that harm the people at the bottom of the income scale. We now have two wars to pay for again. We have been paying for them with supplemental funding. Supplemental funding is government-speak for putting it on a charge card. You’re not budgeting for the extra money but you’re spending it anyway. When American families were struggling, they were demonized as irresponsible for over using charge cards, when Congress did it, it was for the good of the nation.
Rules governing the use of supplemental funding need changing. It may need supplemental funding the first year of a war but after that, the cost of military actions should be paid for in our budget. What’s a budget? How quickly we forget, it has only been four years since we last passed one. A budget is proposed by the president, debated first in the house and then sent to the Senate. If the House & Senate approve a budget it becomes the framework for actual spending bills coming out of Congress.
We need to settle this tax debate once & for all. We need to tell the wealthy to go have sex with themselves. You want the opportunity America offers you than you need to pay your bill. We can debate how taxes are spent but we need to end this incessant debating over who gets taxed and by how much. If you’re making a million dollars a year congrats for you, the American dream came true. Now stop forcing your fellow Americans, who are making a fraction of what you do, to pay YOUR tax bill.
We have lived with lawmakers believing in trickle-down economics since it was first called Reaganomics. It was supposed to be the savior of the economy. One problem, since then we have had FIVE recessions, with the last one being so severe it is being called the Great Recession. This is a play on words inspired by the Great Depression because we were so close to matching that economic disaster. Simply stated by many leading economists, trickle-down doesn’t work.
The other thing that economists and the economy agree on, when Democrats are in charge America’s economy goes into high gear. Look economies are always influx, up then down, and then back up again. It’s like the day to day of any individual business. A restaurant for instance used to be so slow on Monday’s they were closed. Yet that same restaurant on a Friday and Saturday night will make more than half of that week’s earnings over those two nights. Our economy will always fluctuate, however the need for taxes will never go away.
Staying with the small business owners for a moment, they complain loudly about taxes & regulations on small businesses. Here’s the problem with those complaints, just because you have the money to open a business, doesn’t mean you should.
Regulations are there to protect you the business owner and your employees. If you can’t afford to operate a safe workplace, you can’t afford to be a business owner. They are not there to stifle business opportunities; they are there to insure your business doesn’t fail because you didn’t put out a wet floor sign.
Taxes on small businesses are usually taxes on someone who is self-employed. What they object to and why they consider Social Security an “entitlement” is because when you are employed by a company they pay half of the employee’s contribution to Social Security, about 6.2%. However, when you are self-employed you are the employer therefor you pay the full 12.4% Social Security withholding. The same is true for Medicare, employee & employer split 2.9% Medicare withholding. This is a hardship on small businesses. It is also something that needs to be taken into consideration before hanging out the open for business sign.
Both my wife and I faced this decision when we were running our own businesses. Both of us decided that we didn’t want the headache of being a small business owner with employees. We made these decisions while running already very successful businesses. If more people looked at the reality of being a small business owner the more likely less will take the plunge.
It is not easy to run successful businesses, just look at how many times you hear a company went under and their CEO was a Stanford MBA grad. Most small business owners didn’t go to Stanford. Many that I have known personally, only had a couple of years of college, some only had a GED. Guess what depending on their common sense level the GED grad has just as much of chance of starting a successful company as the Stanford grad.
Tax & spend is the great GOP mantra concerning taxes and the Democrats. Isn’t that what government is supposed to do? Government needs to spend money. It has to come from somewhere and taxes are the where. Get over it and pay your taxes.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Never United

The United States of America what a great concept, only we have never truly been united as a nation. We were all taught in school that the Civil War was brother against brother and neighbor versus neighbor. True enough, except that notion goes all the way back to our Revolutionary War. We were not united against the king then and we’re not united in our politics today. Many of us felt the Towers coming down would unite us. We thought we would go back to the unity my parents lived under when the nation was recovering from the Great Depression followed by fighting WWII. Obviously, that did not happen.

I don’t know how we got here but I do have some ideas on how to improve our government. I believe we truly need to hash out our differences once and for all on a couple of vital differences. We need to decide who gets to own firearms, what kind and how many. We also need to figure out where religion fits in our government.  I hear the readers muttering but that’s all covered under the First & Second Amendments to the United States Constitution. True, but many politicians were absent the day the Bill of Rights was taught. If we settle these two issues, we can then maybe reach the utopian idea of the United States of America.

Our Bill of Rights, has there ever been ten ideas more debated than those covered in our first ten amendments. Let’s take them in order. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Simple enough, no state religion, free speech, free press, the right to peaceful protest and petition all great ideas for a nation founded on the principal of liberty. One problem we don’t practice half of this.

Free speech isn’t in as much jeopardy as the others because well, it really is almost impossible to monitor every private conversation in a nation. Three others are in jeopardy. Take our right to peaceful assembly. Following the 1968, presidential election the secret service’s involvement in presidential campaigns increased dramatically. Sen. Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated and the Democratic National Convention was marred by a police riot. Over the following decades, protesters were suddenly being told where they could peacefully assemble. I don’t see that text in the First Amendment. It doesn’t say we can peacefully assemble but only where the government says we can.

A free press is another important idea for a free country. For most of our history, this has been true. Then freedom of the press ran head first into the limited government idea of laissez faire economics. Over the last few decades the number of people or corporations owning media outlets has steadily shrunk. In 1983, 50 corporations (I’ll use that term in general as Citizens United says they’re people too) owned all of the media. That number is now down to six corporations owning 90% of the media. If we continue to allow corporations to consolidate their control over our journalists’, freedom of the press in America will more closely resemble the state controlled media of countries like Russia & China.

Lastly, on the topic of the First Amendment let me explain that thorn on the rose, religion. I have a faith. What it is is nobody’s business but my own. However, there is a sect, a cult even, of people who proclaim themselves as Christians and run around telling the rest of us that if we don’t believe as they do we are going to burn in hell. Fine, that in and of itself goes directly against scripture. However, there are people and more importantly politicians who believe this is a Christian nation. We must stop this idea in its tracks.

We are not a Christian nation, period. In fact, in my home state of Maryland our founders were Catholics who left England because they did not want to have to join the Church of England. Puritans came here for freedom of religion. Quakers came here for freedom of religion too. Unfortunately, there are far too many politicians that do not understand this part of our history. I say let’s take 135 of them, cram them onto a 105’ wooden sailing vessel, add in a little cholera & dysentery, sail them back to England, and see if after all of that they would allow any human being tell them which religion they get to practice. Yet when you vote based on your religious beliefs rather than the concept of liberty you are violating the text and the spirit of the First Amendment.

On to the Second Amendment and who gets to own guns, and what kind of guns they can own in America. First the text: "A well regulated (sic) Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." There it is in its entirety. What does it mean? Two hundred forty-five years of arguments has not settled that debate. To me it means that the federal government cannot tell states that they can’t have their own well-regulated militias to defend their states. Obviously if Pennsylvania has the right to defend itself against attack from Maryland than the people in both states have a right to own a firearm in case they are needed for the defense of their state or the nation.

Prior to the arrival of the Tea Party faction of the GOP, I would have said Maryland is never going to attack West Virginia. However today, if you asked me if I thought it would be possible that a group of modern day militiamen from West Virginia could conceivably invade Maryland I’d have to answer yes, it is a possibility. I hope that it’s a very remote possibility but it is a possibility.

More important is if we all have a right to own a firearm for sport and self-defense what kinds of weapons should we allow the average citizen own. Let’s start with a list of the definitely you cannot own any of these, a M-1 Abrams tank, a 40-ton 155mm Howitzer artillery cannon, a grenade launcher or any of the grenades it launches. Obviously, you can’t own an F-22 Raptor even if you are qualified to fly jets. These weapons are obvious. There is one military weapon that we do need to debate, the assault rifle.

An assault rifle whether it’s the M-16A4 currently issued to our infantry soldiers or the slightly less lethal citizen’s version the AR-15 or a citizen version of Russia’s AK-47 are all still rifles developed for the battlefield. The M-16A4 in full auto mode can easily fire 10 rounds per second or 600 rounds per minute. You can pick which description makes you feel safer neither make me feel safe. In the hands of a properly trained soldier, that firing rate can go as high as 900 rounds/minute.

The citizen’s version is an AR-15, think Aurora or Sandy Point, this is the type of rifles those mass murders used. It fires as fast as you can pull the trigger. However there is a way to manipulate it to make it fire at a rate comparable to full auto. I will not even name the method because the video of it being employed was terrifying. No matter, this is still a military weapon. It has no place in our residential or even in our rural communities. The number of lives “saved” by owning a military assault rifle in comparison to the carnage of innocent lives assault rifles are responsible for makes this issue a no brainer. We are not each a one-person militia defending against a foreign military attack. We are not soldiers. The average American citizen should not be allowed to own an assault rifle.

We must enact gun laws that closely resemble our motor vehicle laws. We live under them. Most people don’t bitch about them (except for the tickets they may collect). Gun owners must be made to pass thorough & comprehensive background checks, they must be able to pass a proficiency test, a test on the laws pertaining to the use of lethal force, and carry liability insurance. Responsible gun owners support this. The National Rifle Association does not. The NRA is now the national lobby for firearms manufacturers, it is no longer the organization of responsible gun owners it once was.

Our constitution provides us, through us, the right to defend our families, our property and ourselves. It also provides us the right to choose to worship any way we want, simply put you can be a conservative Evangelical Christian & I get to be a Rastafarian if I choose. I even get to be a modern day Madeline Murray O’Hare and lead a movement of atheists. These rights must have been most important to our forefather’s because they are the first two changes we made to our Constitution.

These issues should not be that difficult to resolve but they sure as hell have been. One of the reasons we’ve gone backwards on the unity issue is Pres. Ronald Reagan convincing a bunch of selfish baby boomers that identified as Democrats that government is the problem. Since then we now have politicians running around saying we need to do away with the Department of Education ending what was once a robust public school system. They want to do away with the IRS, because they don’t want their federal income taxes going to states other than their own. Hell these people want to do away with United States Postal Service. Yep they want to fire the mailman.

Education is the key to resolving our differences. However, we now allow parents who only have a GED education home school their children because they don’t like the curriculum. They don’t want sex or evolution taught. They prefer to teach their children that masturbation is murder and Fred Flintstone with his dinosaur worked at the quarry that made the bricks for the Great Pyramids. While in the same breath saying that they’re keeping their child out of our public schools because, our public schools are responsible for the dumbing down of America.

To fulfill our dream of a united nation we must have a robust public school system. Not as some would infer to indoctrinate our children but to teach our children not just data, we need to teach them to seek the truth and to think for themselves. Thinking for yourself does not mean you get to have your own facts, as it seems to be in some circles. It means taking facts, even theories and using them to move our nation forward in every way.

What is disheartening is that when it comes to education the Internet is a great source of information. Unfortunately, it is also the source of incredible bullshit masquerading as information. It is a great source of vitriol. It has led to the spread of homophobia, xenophobia & racism. Hell racism thanks to the Internet now even has a new name. Instead of calling themselves the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, or White Supremacists now, they are the alt-right movement, same traitors, with just different names.

The Internet has now become a great source of divisiveness. From Alex Jones and Fox News reporting propaganda as fact to the most reputable news services this nation has known, they are all out there. It will take education and leadership to untangle all of this mess. However, as citizens we must each in our own hearts answer two questions. Is America the land of freedom of religion or a Christian nation? Secondly, are a peaceful people who want to see the carnage in our malls, movie theaters and places of worship end or do we want to be Dodge City, Kansas prior to Wyatt Earp’s arrival in 1876. I truly hope that we have evolved as a society enough in the last one hundred forty years that we choose the former when answering both those questions. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

WTF Happened?

The silly season as someone once labeled it is in full swing. The Republicans and Democrats have gathered for back-to-back conventions. First up was the Republicans and it was a fiasco. The Dems followed and while contentious in the beginning, they came together in the end. Dem convention was more uplifting and forward looking than the GOP convention, which was as dark as midnight.

In 1971, it was hard not to be a political person. The class of ’71 shares a morbid similarity with the class of 2005. We too had major national tragedies strike during our freshman year. For us it was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the nationwide riots that followed, and the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. While these events are dwarfed by the carnage of 2001, they were major events in the nation’s history at the time they took place. In the time that has passed since those events our politics have become so ugly it is hard to continue to be politically active.

Recently someone reminded me that throughout all the turmoil of the 60’s we accomplished so much. We passed the Civil Rights Act, The Voting Rights Act and put a man on the moon. All the while Americans were standing nose to nose in defiance to each other’s political position. For every Gov. George Wallace there was a Tom Hayden. For every Bull Connor there was an Abbie Hoffman. There were violent riots in our cities and students shot down on our college campuses. With all that going on our Congress managed to accomplish great things.

Ten years ago, I found myself thrust into the spotlight over the issue of medical marijuana. I have spent the last ten years participating in this “sausage making” style legislative process that has now ground to a halt. Sure, on the state level there will continue to be slow incremental changes. Washington however, is out of oil and seized up. How did we get here? I find it hard to continue to participate in incremental changes for problems that need complete solutions.

In one hundred years when historians look back at the events of the 1900’s and early 2000’s they will include on the list of lies that damaged America: “Marijuana is a dangerous drug.”, “There are WMD’s in Iraq.”, and “I am not a crook.”

In the library, there are shelves of books that describe the negative rippling effect of these events. What I don’t understand is how did some of the people who attended the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival (or at least claim to have) in ’69 turned around eleven short years later and vote for Ronald Reagan. Was it the majority of festival attendees, I doubt it. However, some of those college students that were there enjoyed rapid financial success and by 1980, their only concern was protecting their “right” to drive a Hummer.

In June of ’68 when Bobby Kennedy was struck down, I thought for a moment that the nation was coming together. Less than two years later under Richard Nixon, the National Guard is shooting down students at Kent State University. This was followed by Watergate, Nixon resigning one vote ahead of impeachment and most assuredly conviction in the Senate. Carter gets villainized by the very people who elected him. Reagan has Iran-Contra, H.W. did the Saudis’ bidding in Kuwait, Clinton’s impeached for a blowjob, and finally W. decides to disrupt the balance of power in the Middle East with what can only be described as a Final Days foreign policy.

Why did it go down this way, surely there is a laundry list of reasons. All I know is by the time I was twenty-something I was making more than my father was when he passed a decade earlier. He supported a family of five. I was struggling to afford to share a decent home in a decent neighborhood with my roommates.

The baby boomer generation has enjoyed great success. However, rather than admitting to being well off or even rich when compared to the average citizen of the world, they have tried to define their extravagant lifestyles as “middle-class.” Seriously, you boast you drive the same cars as a movie star making $20 million a picture, live in a $500K home, have a beach house or a lake house (or both) and you consider yourselves middle-class. This phenomenon is so bad that a GOP lobbyist I know recently quipped about middle-class liberals with three homes.

No, middle-class Americans live in crowded communities that border, even more crowded, high-crime communities. Middle-class Americans don’t drive movie star cars they drive two-decade cars. Two-decade cars are of course cars that are already in their second decade of existence, i.e. a 1985 Chevy bought in 1995 as your primary vehicle. That’s a middle-class car.

I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood and so did my wife. The differences between our individual middle-class upbringings are stark. I grew up with a laundress who came to our home every Monday. During the summer months, she doubled as babysitter for eventually five kids. My mother played golf on Mondays.

My wife’s mother did the laundry and the babysitting until she and her sister were old enough to take over doing most of the family chores.

 Take vacations, my first was a week in a house on a beach in Delaware. I was four. My wife’s first vacation was a road trip from hell. She was ten. Coincidentally we were on vacation in the same area, at about the same time. We spent the week in a house across the street from the beach. They spent theirs moving from one dirty motel to another until finally salvaging the last few days.

The irony of the situation is both fathers listed the same occupation on their tax returns, commissioned salesman. Yet one worked multiple jobs to make ends meet while the other joined segregated dining clubs called “key clubs.” My father-in-law busted his hump to buy one home. By the time my father died, he was on the deed to five properties, four were investment rental properties. Both men considered themselves solidly a part of America’s great middle-class yet their lifestyles could not be more different.

These two men did share one thing – their political point of view. My father-in-law did everything possible to go fight in WWII but he was rejected for medical reasons. My father enlisted in October of 1941 because he saw what was on the horizon. He spent the war in the South Pacific. When the war was over, both men turned their attention to insuring that Americans do not endure the poverty they had seen in America prior to the war and the devastating poverty of post-WWII Europe. This was a great generation of Americans. Their children however have grown to be incredibly selfish brats. Worse however, is they exist in both major political parties.

I won’t spend time enumerating the GOP selfish policies as trickle-down economics says it all. Democrats that did not stand & fight and fight tooth & nail for the public option most wanted included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) did so for selfish reasons. They were afraid they would lose their seats in Congress. Southern Democrats are still gun-shy because of the loss of the South following the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Damn it you are Democrats from 1966 on you should have been going thru your states convincing them of the rightness of the Voting Rights Act and the Democratic platform not evolving into Republican-lites.

Too many Southern Democrats are even afraid to raise the taxes on the upper middle-class and the wealthy. Why, because as Aaron Sorkin wrote in “The American President”, “That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time…,” They lack the backbones of their parents’ who would have continued to keep corporations & wealthy Americans paying their fair share.

According to the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, corporate tax revenue for the federal government has been cut by more than half since my birth. This is from their webpage, “The share that corporate tax revenues comprise of total federal tax revenues also has collapsed, falling from an average of 28 percent of federal revenues in the 1950s and 21 percent in the 1960s to an average of about 10 percent since the 1980s.”

If they were truly their parents’ children, they would have continued the fundamental principal of the Democratic Party. To whom much is given, much is expected. Instead, they cowardly bought into the myth that if you give money to rich people they will share with those less fortunate, they bought Reagan’s welfare mother myth, they bought into the idea that it was somehow unfair to prevent banks from risking our savings in the stock market, they bought into the myth that the drug war was working. Simply put, way too many Democrats are not true Democrats they are just politicians feeding their egos at the public trough.

You know sometimes when you hear a Haley Barbour, Rick Perry, Sam Clovis or Donald Trump speak you wonder if Lincoln was correct in spilling all that blood to keep a section of this nation who has from the get go been at odds with the politics of its neighboring northern states. Besides the ugly truth of slavery in the South, which was the lifestyle of the rich & famous, not the average farmer, the South was thick with Loyalists who supported the Crown throughout our Revolutionary War. Think about that and then think about how often Southern politicians claim they know what was in the minds of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and the other revolutionaries that created this great nation.

They don’t have a clue. That is understandable when you realize that the Southern plantation owners were loyalists not revolutionaries. They were slavers. They believed they had the right to OWN a human being. The revolutionaries believed that “all men are created equal.” Now we have a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America who thinks we should religion test people before allowing them to enter this country. Loyalists believed the Crown had the right to tell you must belong to the Church of England. Revolutionaries believed we get to worship in our own way even it that is not to believe in God at all.

In his acceptance speech, Little Don said we should prevent people from entering or reentering the US from countries affected by terrorism abroad. Little Don includes in that exclusion Americans returning from allies like France & Germany.

I sometimes wonder if our quest for a more perfect union is not quixotic. It wasn’t at our hundred-year anniversary. It wasn’t at our two hundredth anniversary but since then our politics have gone to hell in hand basket. In 1976, those great Evangelical Christians that the GOP now covets elected Gov. Jimmy Carter because he represented their Christian values. Then when he governed with those same Christian values, they abandoned him. Why, because too many Evangelicals believe that of all the various faiths in this nation, theirs is the only one that matters.

Conservative Christians simply just do not get the First Amendment. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This means I get to be a Catholic and my brother gets to be atheist.

I heard some GOP delegate who thinks our First Lady should not be encouraging parents to feed their children healthy meals. She wants government out of our schools. Let that one sink in. If some in the GOP had their way, we would no longer even have a public school system. Why do they want to do away with the Dept. of Education, because they want to teach the bible as scientific fact instead of theology.

The “Party” of Lincoln, Eisenhower and the first Roosevelt has abandoned their long held beliefs to morph into the party of religious zealots, bigots and xenophobes. What is really disheartening is that if the Republican Party had stuck with their beliefs prior to 1980 both parties would still be working together. FDR Democrats and Eisenhower Republicans weren’t that far apart. Then Brown v. Board of Ed. is decided and the racists in the Democratic Party chose to buck their party rather than choosing to live by the Christian values they have spent most of the last 40 years espousing.

While the Dems had a much more positive, uplifting message highlighted in their convention it was not all kumbaya. Throughout Sen. Sanders improbable, run for the White House he accused the DNC of having their thumb on the scale for Sec. Clinton. On Saturday July 23, days before the convention, WikiLeaks released emails that provided evidence that Sen. Sanders' accusation was a fact.
The situation was made worse when Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook answered the email issue with questions by saying the Russians hacked the DNC. Sanders supporters were so frustrated that the Bernie or Bust wing of our revolution felt vindicated and began calling for a walk out. In response to the email scandal and the threat of a walkout if she took the podium to open the proceedings Debbie Wasserman-Schultz announced she would resign as chair of DNC – but not until after the convention. She had to reconsider that decision after being booed off the stage by her own Florida delegation. Afterwards she was nowhere to be seen at the convention except on the floor with her Florida delegation. However, even some of her own delegation wasn’t thrilled with that.

Once more, you are faced with trying to bring yourselves to vote for a candidate you rejected at first. Don't sweat it – VOTE BLUE. Once again, we are left with four choices. The GOP as I have said I believe to be a corrupt organization. The Democrats, have abandoned many of their liberal objectives to entice Republican voters.  The Green Party puts Mother Nature before everything making them a one-issue party incapable of forming a governing coalition.

Then there is the Libertarian Party that has many liberal ideals but after their sensible liberal platform planks they veer off into crazy land. For instance, they want to abolish the IRS. Okay no one likes paying taxes but somehow we have to pay for our government.

Therefor we have to choose from between parties that either put owls ahead of people, the bible before the constitution, individual rights ahead of the good of the nation as a whole, and a party run by politicians who instead of fighting for their causes equivocate to placate their conservative constituents. The last is obviously the Democrats, which is the only sensible choice. They are at least willing to try to reach consensus in our legislatures.

What the fuck has happened here. We once had a two party system that worked okay. We will never all be happy with all of our lawmakers. Now we have two parties controlled by unlimited amounts of money thanks to the Citizens United ruling. We are well on our way to an oligarchy. The one shining hope in this cycle was Sen. Bernie Sanders proved that we the citizens of the United States could out spend the Super PACs with $27.00 donations.

I hate to have to say this after working so hard for the hope & change that were represented by Barack Obama & Bernie Sanders but I’m afraid this is another clothespin election. Hold your nose and vote for Hillary if you must but vote for her nonetheless. The Democratic Party has problems like the GOP does but I’ll take an argument about how to be more liberal, more forward thinking, than ever vote for a member of a party that by their votes clearly demonstrate they will support the Bible over our Constitution every time.

Am I with her, as the Clinton supporters say, no. Am I going to vote for her, yes. Am I happy with my parents Democratic Party, nope. However, my parents wouldn’t be happy with them either. They lived thru the Depression & WWII. They rallied around a Democratic president that delivered on his promises. He promised Social Security and delivered. He promised that Hitler & Hirohito would unconditionally surrender and he delivered. JFK promised Civil Rights and a man on the moon and delivered. The GOP promised that if my tax break went to the wealthy my life would improve. It did not. When we grew a pair and elected Clinton & Obama things got better. Problem is between those two came W who took away most of our gains under Clinton. Now Obama has brought us back from the financial brink and the GOP says the economy is failing despite every bit of evidence to the contrary.

In the last forty-eight hours, Little Don has been running saying that Obama is the founder of ISIS. To conclude let me set the record straight on that point. George W. Bush is the cause of ISIS. He caused it by his reckless, unlawful invasion of Iraq. He alone authorized the use of torture, which has inspired terrorists ever since. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Unintended Consequences

I have been a medical cannabis activist now since 2006. I have watched as this nation has continued to waste money on treating addiction as a crime. However, I believe we are about to see a sea change in how America deals with addiction.
The Harrison Narcotics Act was passed over one hundred years ago. Does anyone in this nation still believe treating addiction as a crime has moved the needle towards solving our addition problem even one point on the scale? The current Director of ONDCP (Office of National Drug Control Policy) Michael Botticelli does not.
During his 60 Minutes interview he hit all the high notes for me. He spoke eloquently about the need to concentrate on treatment & harm reduction. He said he personally was able to admit to being gay before admitting to himself that he is an alcoholic. Having a Director of ONDCP with 27 years sobriety made me hopeful we finally had a person in that position that got it. Then he made the statement that 1 in 9 people who try cannabis become addicted. In one instance, he went from someone who understands the problem to someone spreading William Randolph Hearst & Harry Anslinger’s lies.
Del. Dr. Dan Morhaim (D) MD. Dist. 11 is famous for saying “it’s time we get the sick and dying off the battlefield of the failed drug war.” I go even farther than that. It is time we recognize we traded a War on Poverty for a War on Drugs.
Maryland has an affirmative defense law which states, so long as I possess less than 28 grams and I can prove medicinal necessity I am to be found not guilty. For logistical reasons I sat at the table next to Sen. President Mike Miller when Gov. Martin O’Malley signed that right into law.
Now the DEA in contrast to ONDCP Director Botticelli’s point of view, comes along telling my doctor, that a drug I have been taking more off than on since it was introduced in 1995 I can’t have because I use cannabis. I was first prescribed Ultram (Tramadol) to battle arthritic pain because it was a non-NSAID arthritis medicine. My battle with osteoarthritis is caused in part by polio and the changes it caused to my muscular/skeletal system. They began when I was nineteen years old. On August 18, 2014, the DEA rescheduled Ultram making it a Schedule IV narcotic. This creates a serious conflict that Congress needs to address and not with the same Hearts/Anslinger arguments, they usually use.
Ultram is a pain reliever that is similar to Tylenol #3 but does not contain codeine. While chemically similar to codeine, as it is an opioid however until its rescheduling it was not considered a narcotic. Until the date above this is what the Harvard Health Guide had to say about Tramadol & osteoarthritis, “Other pain medications, such as Tramadol (Ultram) or codeine-type medicines, may be prescribed if the other medicines don't work.” As of August of last year, I lost that option. Ask yourself this, have you seen even one story about the illegal trafficking of Tramadol?
When you have health problems, you occasionally develop relationships that go farther than doctor/patient or pharmacist/customer. In fact, one of those relationships has been with one of the many pharmacists I’ve had over the years. I was discussing the issue of cannabis as medicine with one and they told me this. They believe that if cannabis were to be run through the standard FDA protocol testing it would fly through and be one of the safest most effective drugs available to physicians. Naturally being a writer, I asked if I could have an attributed quote. They told me “I’d love to be able to but my saying that could cause many more people than me, if not trouble, great inconvenience in the form of extensive audits.” I get that. I don’t want a Dr. William Crittenden dolling out OxyContin hundreds of pills at a time from the shopping center down the street. However, the rescheduling of Ultram now makes me subject to urinalysis before it can be prescribed to me on a long-term basis.
Add to this conflict in law, primary care doctors who fear the DEA looking into their prescribing practices, which causes them to decline to treat chronic pain patients. For this reason, they would rather refer them to Pain Management Specialist. Here’s the problem, because of that legal medicinal cannabis users no longer have access to a wide range of pain medicines. Pain Management Specialists are required to test for THC. If you test positive for THC, they cannot treat you with Schedule IV medicines. Even though it is perfectly legal for them to use cannabis in the manner, I have been doing so since May 10, 2011, or whenever Maryland SB 308 went into effect.
All this conflict in the law is because two conservatives roughly eighty years ago told a lie. The safety of cannabis is as much of a fact as evolution and climate change. The problem is, as with those issues, science doesn’t enter into the thinking of those who oppose it, just the irrational fear created by a lie.
Bob Twillman, Executive Director for the American Academy of Pain Management said even they recognize the efficacy of cannabis but have yet to take a formal position as to how to address this conflict. They are planning to issue a position on it in the future.
I spoke to two members of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC). It was obvious the MMCC appreciates the gravity of the issue and its implications for the sick and dying whom they are trying to help by implementing the state’s medical cannabis program. Nevertheless, I also believe they can’t be perceived as advocating for positions that might complicate their ability to operate within the political construct that has created this dilemma.
A good opinion-education article should offer a solution. Dr. Morhaim explained that despite the DEA regulations any doctor could prescribe pain medicines so long as it is justified in the patient’s chart. I think Dr. William Tham a physiatrist and pain manager from Annapolis may have hit on a solution. I contacted Dr. Tham because I had heard him testify before the Anne Arundel County Council. In his testimony, he informed the Council members that use of cannabis in conjunction with opioids actually reduces not just the chances of becoming addicted to a drug like Vicodin. It could also help reduce the amount of opioids the patient needs to achieve the relief they seek.

The solution is really so simple. Continue to test for heroin, cocaine, meth amphetamine and other extremely dangerous street drugs but stop testing for the presence of THC as delta 9 THC does not negatively interact with opioids. Like with climate change it is time for lawmakers to start listening to the scientists and doctors that fully understand cannabis and not those beholding to the pharmaceutical industry or Anheuser-Busch. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Phone Banking Sunday

Well, the Iowa caucus are a little more than 24 hours away. I encourage everyone that is supporting Sen. Sanders, to go to this web page: Find a phone banking party near you and make those calls. It is time to ratcheted it up. Revolution does not happen without "U". It's great to Feel The Bern now it's time to set Iowa ablaze with supporters who truly want to take back our country, not from liberals & progressives but from the billionaire class. The billionaires are trying to turn our representative democratic republic into an oligarchy protecting their immense wealth. Only "We The People" can stop them.

More coming soon.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Practical Politics

Oops found one more and to be truthful didn't proof it well. It is a more expansive telling of an earlier post from today that I began last month and forgot about. Writers can be scatterbrains. 

On November 10th of this year I attended a seminar host by Del. Dr. Dan Morhaim at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where he teaches. Dr. Morhaim is also a member of the House of Delegates where he is Deputy Majority Leader. For those of you not totally familiar with how a legislator works. This means Del, Morhaim is very good at convincing his fellow delegates to vote a certain way. If that is not enough Dr. Morhaim still spends time practicing his medical speciality which is the particularly difficult practice of Emergency Medicine. You know, real ER not George Clooney ER.

Unfortunately I missed the first in the series of three seminars which were a part of Dr. Morhaim's course, Practical Politics, Policy and Public Health. That seminar was titled "Health Care Policy from the Inside: When elected representatives are also health care providers" I wish I could say more one this one but I didn't learn of the series until it got to the second one.

The second was titled, "The War on Drugs, or the War on People: Kurt Schmoke and Neill Franklin." This one for obvious reasons grabbed my attention, for it was Ethan Nadlemann who help to convince Mayor Kurt Schmoke to famously coming out in favor of treating our drug problem as a health problem as opposed to treating it as a criminal justice problem.

Former Mayor Schmoke, and the current President of the University of Baltimore & I have something in common. It was nine years ago this month that I heard Ethan speak at coincentally another Hopkins campus, Hopkins Bayview. Afterwhich I had the chance to briefly talk to Ethan. He quickly grabbed his represesentative driving an upcoming medical marijuana bill, Naomi Long.

Over the next six weeks Naomi teamed up with Caren Woodson then with Americans for Safe Access to double team me and convince me to be the first patient to testify in favor of a medical marijuana bill in Maryland.

The reality is that I had come to same decision probably around the same time as Mayor Schmoke. I met Neill through another LEAP member Howard Wooldridge. Both men made the argument that readers of Casey's Dream generally agree with. The War on Drugs not only is lost it should never have begun. I specially asked Mayor Schmoke a question who while he answered point out the fact the he & I were both older than most in the audience. The question was why did we trade a War on Poverty that was working for a War on Drugs which was destined to to fail.

In a word his answer was, Vietnam. Mayor Schmoke only being four years older than me remembers the violence of the year 1968. Besides the racial riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. our college campuses were hot beds of unrest. The Battle of Morningside Heights at Columbia came on the heals of getting the cities back under control. Nixon rode into office on a platform of law & order with a secret plan to end Vietnam. As we know that secret plan took until two hundred sixty four days after Richard Nixon had resigned rather than be convicted of high crimes & misdemeanors by the United States Senate. His impeachment was just votes away. 

As for his law & order plan well that was to scrap as much of the War on Poverty he could get away with and begin a massive war on drugs. You know if he had made it a massive war on drug addiction he might have saved his reputation some. That's all history.

Kurt & Neill both spoke some of the history and a lot about the progress that has been made and the changes coming due to changing of attitudes as demographics naturally morph.

The third in the seminar about lobbying was titled "The Lobbyist Panel: Insiders Share Their Secrets" In a way this could have been called the networking seminar. The lobbyist spoke of the importance of knowing about those who you wish to influence.

The spoke of the changes they had seen over the years. Deals over drinks at Harry Brown's are for the most part gone. No one wants to risk having a cellphone picture of them schmoozing with a dreaded lobbyist. 

One of the last lesson they taught I quickly went  out and violated. Don't get pissed off - later I would learn from a lobbyist - they all lose their cool sometimes. If you lose your cool you better figure out how to mend that fence. 

In Polio News There Is This

This is the last of three posts to Casey's Dream today. I'm catching up while sitting by the phone to conduct an interview. This one is especially important because it highlights one very important fact. Drs. Salk & Sabin did not eradicate polio. They did however give us the mean to do so. The UN and Rotary International are pushing hard to make that a reality.

Here's the latest on that front. When I was a child I got polio. It is why I need medical cannabis today and work to make sure it is available to all Americans. To help others, as children, we all knocked on doors for March of Dimes. We almost eradicated the disease but the country (and March of Dimes) lost interest in us. At least people like actress Amanda Peet haven't; she sent me an email to this campaign: