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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Why I Use #WhyNot

Why I Use #WhyNot
Some people I am sure wonder about or worse just shrug off the tag I use #WhyNot. Let me explain and maybe you will begin to use it too. It goes all the way back to June of the worse year of my life, 1968.

Robert “Bobby” Kennedy had been assassinated. His brother Senator Teddy Kennedy was eulogizing him. He told a story that he could barely get through about Bobby on the campaign trail quoting a favorite saying of his. Since then the quote is frequently mistakenly credited to Senator Bobby Kennedy. It actually originates with George Bernard Shaw.

The quote goes like this: You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?” It is paraphrased in minor ways by many in society. It is a fantastic way to look at life.

I fear some misread #WhyNot as some kind of anarchist ideal. Far from it, it is a call to reach for the stars together. The spirit of #WhyNot has powered us forward during our most productive times.
Conservatives see things as they are and say why. They say why can’t it be like it was. Okay let’s play “It’s A Wonderful Life” with that idea. We are going back to 1968. The top individual income tax rate was 91% on people earning $400K per year. The avg. household income was $7,700.00 per year and their tax rate was 22%. The $400K/year household before any deductions, which are greatly different now than they were back in 1968 kept $36,000.00 per year over 4.5 times the average household gross income. The average household kept a trip to McDonald’s over $6,000.00 or six times less than the top earners. That all sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Compare also corporate taxes back then with now and also compare the percentage of federal revenue that came from corporate taxes in 1968 with today. Than compare what we were accomplishing then with the governmental shut downs over laws that were duly passed and signed by the POTUS we recently endured.

1968 was the year that Astronaut William Anders took that iconic picture of the earth rising as man for the first time emerged from the backside of the moon. Politicians nowadays hear Democrats say we put a man on the moon and they say “so what”.

The Apollo 8 crew also broadcasted a message while that picture was being beamed backed to Earth. It was from Genesis chapter one, verses 1 through 10. The passage ends, “And God called the dry land “Earth”; and the gathering together of the waters he called “Seas”: and God saw that it was good." This was recited as the people of Earth saw their whole planet from outer space for the first time. It was a beautiful sentiment to bring to end a year that saw two assassinations and riots in many American cities. It was accepted by people on both sides of the political spectrum in the spirit with which those brave men offered it.

Compare that with the attitudes of the general public today. In a recent discussion with a conservative I know, the following exchange took place:
Me: In the end when it comes to “pulling the lever”, we are all doing it based on what we think we have learned, what is fact and our personal guts. Dukakis lost for many reasons but one was no one wanted to have a beer with him. In the end, I look at the total of what I believe I know about the candidates, and based on that I vote. Barack didn’t lose this election for Hillary; Hillary lost the election for America by concentrating on fundraising rather than meeting voters. With all that [name deleted], you do know that the last two Republican POTUS’s first term wins were via the Electoral College not popular vote. 2.8 million more people voted for Hillary. Trump’s victory earns him 7th place for smallest percentage of popular vote while getting an Electoral College victory.

Response: The Electoral College is without a doubt one of the most important gifts we got from our founding fathers.  It protects the minority from the masses.  My only hope is to one day see that the vote is restricted to those who are not receiving government benefits ─ such that they are in a clear and present conflict of interest. (Emphasis added by me).

This is the mindset that Americans of goodwill face. Our parents fought for protections that their stingy kids see as a drain on their ability to die with the most toys. We all must speak to power and with the internet; we get to do that very easily. There are the apps. I have one for Maryland government that puts contact with every lawmaker in Annapolis a few button clicks away on my cellphone. Even without an app, all smartphones have browsers, and browsers have bookmarks. There’s no reason why that browser can’t have both of your Senators, your member of the House of Representatives, plus those who represent you in your state legislature bookmarked.

If you have an idea for making America have a better functioning government, call them. If they say, we can’t do that, you ask “why not?” If it’s a Democratic lawmaker and you are lucky enough to be looking them in the eye say, Senator (or Representative) if Bobby Kennedy were standing here, he would tell you, you’re a damn Democrat, why not! Remember before he was President Obama, Barack taught us that together, “Yes we can!” However, he taught us that lesson because at some point he asked himself, “Can I do that?” His answer was obviously, “Why not.”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why We Protest

Over the last several days, I have had conversations with two people I thought for certain would be up to protesting. One I’ve known a while and worked with on a particular issue. The other, let’s just say I’ve known for quite some time longer. I was surprised that both expressed a lack of interest in protesting at the Inauguration of Donald J. Trump.
Both expressed in different ways, what use is protesting? After the Electoral College votes on Monday 12/19/16, if they have not bucked the system and exercised the Hamilton option, it’s a done deal. I get that. However, protesting works, it always has.
I told one that after LBJ won in a landslide in 1964, it didn’t stop the protesting over the Vietnam War. They replied that the protests had not stopped the war. Out of respect, I didn’t challenge that idea. However, our protest did stop the Vietnam War. Did LBJ or Nixon suddenly give an address to the nation saying that he has come to the realization that the war was not only unwinnable it was immoral? No. However, those protests did turn public opinion against the war in Vietnam. That forced Nixon to pull out.
A third person challenged the idea in my, “Permits, We Don’t Need No Stinking Permits” protest, telling me that the Park Service will stop any political action. This may be true. Do you think that would have stopped the civil rights protesters of the sixties? Permits? If Rep. John Lewis is your congressman, call his office today and ask if Birmingham or Montgomery granted permits to the bus boycott protestors. I doubt it, but even if they had a permit, they beat Rep. Lewis in Montgomery Bus Depot – because he was black.
Why protest, because it does promote change. Protesting rarely ends with the other side capitulating. It ends when the protests have changed enough minds for the people to vote for that change. The No Nukes movement for years made it nearly impossible to build a new reactor and it is getting increasingly hard to renew licenses for existing reactors. Here’s the U.S. NRC site where you can look up what’s happening in the nuclear energy industry: https://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/licensing/renewal/applications.html#underreview . Which by the way, the Tangerine Terror (TT) wants to turn over to former Gov. Rick Perry, the candidate who couldn’t even remember “Dept. of Energy” when listing agencies he would shut down.
The best recent example however, is apartheid in South Africa. If you call yourself politically, savvy then you know Nelson Mandela’s story. However, that struggle was much more. Thousands of dangerous protests took place in South Africa. So many, the nation was dubbed the protest capitol of the world. It took until 1991 for apartheid to be abolished, yet anti-apartheid protests still were occurring as late as 2012.
However, the American protests against apartheid may have been the most productive because they hit South Africa in the wallet. It was American college students protesting, demanding that the university trust funds of their schools divest from investing in companies doing business in South Africa.
It was entertainers who joined in with Artists United Against Apartheid. Stevie Van Zandt released the album “Sun City”. For the tract, “Sun City” Van Zandt gathered a group of some forty plus musicians to record the song. No biggie, that’s what musicians do. However, he also got them to commit not to perform in the South African resort, Sun City. This was hitting in the wallet.
“We Are The World” in 1985 raised 63 million dollars for humanitarian aid in Africa. It wasn’t a big demonstration like The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in ’63 but it was activism that provided aid to starving people in Africa.
To provide famine relief in Ethiopia, also in 1985 there was “Live Aid” an all-day, live concert event, broadcast from two continents. On that day, organizers Bob Geldof, KBE and Midge Ure raised $184,507,500.00 for famine relief in Ethiopia. That is protest. It is protesting people being allowed to starve to death due to the world’s willingness to let it happen.
If you do not know who the Rev. Dr. William Barber II of North Carolina is, Google him. He is the leader of the Moral Monday movement, which was instrumental in the election of a Democrat as the new North Carolina Governor. I’m quite sure if the NC legislature continues on its current course of action, Moral Monday Rallies will continue to occur.
On January 20, this nation will legally be more fractured than since the election of 1860. One of those people who questioned the validity of protesting was also the first person to suggest that was heading our way. They did so several years ago as they watched the disrespecting of the office of The President of The United States, because those crazy liberals had gone too far. They had elected a biracial man whose features were distinctly African-American to the highest office in OUR land.
The moment the networks called the 2008 election for Barack Hussein Obama the conservatives went --- bonkers, for lack of a better word. McConnell, Boehner and others set in motion their plan to obstruct their way into power. Well, they have succeeded. They bided their time, got through eight years of the finest president of my lifetime, and pulled off the impossible. They got the Tangerine Terror elected president.
A quick look over social media sites and others, more & more often the idea of protesting, boycotting, etc. is quickly becoming referred to as “The Resistance”. This means on January 20 this nation will be divided into Trump v. “The Resistance”.
The nation will likely see protests that will not just dwarf the recent unrest in Ferguson & Baltimore they will dwarf the Battle of Morningside Heights, Kent State, Jackson State, and every other university that saw their administration building taken over. It will dwarf The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, it will even dwarf the incoming administration’s favorite historical event, the huge KKK marches up Pennsylvania Avenue of the 1920’s.

Mr. Tangerine Terror used divisive rhetoric throughout his campaign, behaved as if not his every word was being recorded and rebroadcasted. At least that’s what he got the media, both the mainstream & alt media to believe. In fact, TT conned them as much, if not more, than he conned the electorate. Per a headline on “The Hill” on December 21, 2016, the “Trump Cabinet’s net worth greater than the world’s 70 smallest countries” this is the foundation of either an oligarch or a fascist governing philosophy. If you subscribe to the philosophy that the top earners deserve the most perks, I’m sorry you simply do not understand what Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, & Washington were attempting to bring the world in 1776.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience
An American Right
Ever since Thomas Paine put pen to paper Americans have struggled for a certain set of freedoms, a set of freedoms we felt we had even before revolting against King George. Recently a story circulated about how protest permits for inside Washington, DC would no longer be granted until March 1, 2017. The reality is this. Permits for protests at Inauguration Ceremonies are incredibly hard to come by for any inauguration. They are not issued until all plans for the ceremony are final. This in and of itself makes it difficult to get permits. There is a time constraint and a backlog of permit requests.
Stopping protesting will be as successful as stopping the flow of drugs into this country. Face it the government cannot stop ISIS from radicalizing misguided American born Muslim youth from attacking us at home. If they cannot stop the Alt-Right from radicalizing Dylan Roof to commit the Mother Emanuel Massacre how are they going to stop peaceful protesting?
We after all are Americans. If nothing else Americans hate being told they are not allowed to do something or something cannot be done. “Why not,” was a part of the American lexicon long before Robert F. Kennedy quoted George Bernard Shaw. Why not was exactly what we asked when someone told our founding fathers, “You can’t revolt against The King of England.”  It is what was asked when they said we couldn’t fly; it was what they said when people believed it impossible to walk on the moon. Yet Americans, we did all those things.
Therefore, if there is a will in Americans to protest the installation of a person they strongly believe is unqualified to hold the office, we will protest. I attended my first protest rally in 1970. To my knowledge, it was not planned ahead of time. There is absolutely nothing the authorities can do to stop protesting. Before dealing with the logistical possibility that some people will figure out a way to, in a very public manner, voice their displeasure with inauguration of Donald J. Trump, let’s examine the legality of it.
Source: The United States Constitution, specifically The First Amendment, thereof: “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.”
The pertinent part of that amendment is, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That is how “we the people” get to beat the permitting issue. So long as we are many small groups, peaceably assembling, our right to redress grievances vocally is also covered in the First Amendment.
The large part of the Facebook membership is millennials. You folks invented flash mobs. There is no way they can stop small quick moving mobs. Protest quickly & in strategic, important locations [1100 Pennsylvania Ave. comes to mind] and move off quickly. Timing is important too. Don’t do your actions before the ceremony. Either risk doing it at the ceremony or throughout the city just after the ceremony. If we stage enough protests like this on January 20, 2017, we will win the news cycle on Inauguration Day.
Think about it. We’ve all seen men at football games in Wisconsin when the temperature is near zero, bare chested, spelling out the word “Packers”. Just imagine the image of such a group for lack of a better word, streaking through the Trump Inaugural Parade with an offensive message on their chests. It would be historic.
Look, I hear the 21st century patriots now, how could I be so disrespectful. For starters, conservatives gave up the right to complain about being disrespected when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted, “You lie” at the First African-American President of the United States of America during an address to a Joint Session of Congress, a first in my memory.
Patriotism is my father and the men he served with in World War II. On Christmas, when he’d had one too many he’d say, the Marines take the beach, the Seabees (my uncle was one of those) throw up some buildings, and they were the first to move in. My father and uncle may have reported to different unit commanders but in their minds’ they were with “Mac”. They and thousands more followed Gen. Douglas MacArthur from one Pacific island to another. It was brutally hot and incredibly dangerous. So dangerous that my mother never knew he survived a strafing run of his base until he had passed.
He was walking home from chow. Being a forward radar operator his ears were always listening for the sounds of planes. These men could tell the difference from our planes and the Japanese planes by the sound of the engines. He heard a zero coming hard and fast, shoved his buddy and himself into a protective bunker/ditch. This is what patriotism looks like. You do it. You don’t brag about it.
Driving down the street of some town with the Stars & Stripes on one side of your tailgate and the Stars & Bars on the other, while yelling “White Power” is not patriotism - it is bigotry. Neither is just driving around with the Stars & Stripes flying from the back of your pickup truck. That doesn’t make you a patriot either.
Do you want to spot a patriot driving down the road? He’s the old man collecting Social Security driving down the road with the simple little American flag clipped to his driver side window. Why, are they the patriot? Easy, with that person there’s at least a chance that they were ripped out of their comfortable lives to go fight for our freedoms’.
This is not to diminish the incredible service and patriotism of our volunteer force. They are even more patriotic because they chose to put on a uniform and join our military. Once again, in my lifetime I feel I owe the men & women who wear our uniform an apology because our leaders have misused your souls. So don’t tell me about respecting my nation.
Protest, especially peaceful protest is engrained in the very meaning of being American. This nation began with groups like The Sons of Liberty who were responsible for the repeal of The Stamp Act. We had The Boston Tea Party, Birmingham Bus Boycott, and The March on Washington for Jobs where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech. There was so many anti-war demonstrations growing up which had permits and which did not is impossible for me to recall. I know the demonstrations that took place in Chicago in 1968 occurred both with and without permits. The end results of those actions are described in the official record as a “police riot”.
Donald J. Trump, aka the Tangerine Terror, better expect his one and only term as POTUS to resemble the closing years of LBJ’s, and Nixon’s entire presidency. Especially after his comment that, flag burners should lose their citizenship. The majority of the Americans who got off their couches long enough to go vote - voted against the Terror. He exploited the same Nixon, GOP, Southern Strategy, which plays on deeply seeded, institutional racism that exists in our South and Mid-West. The GOP exploits their race. They tell them you are losing control of your country to – them. Each election cycle, the “them” changes a little, this is easy. (Four hundred years after a bunch of white people came here and stole this continent from those who were already here. [An idea that would never have crossed the minds of any Chief of any Native American nation to do had they ever become curious enough to go that far to sea.] However, the GOP is still using this strategy to tell people they are losing their country to – them.) It gets worse.
Just this weekend Tangerine Terror said he doesn’t need daily security briefings, because he doesn’t need to hear the same thing every day, he’s a smart guy. Since the election he has said both we don’t need new Airforce One’s [This fucker is thinking if Barack got to keep his goddamn Blackberry he’s going to keep his Trump plane with his name emblazoned on it], and we don’t need the F-35, driving down both Lockheed and Boeing stocks long enough for money to be made on the price drop. Carrier Air Conditioner is owned by a defense contractor, and there’s another shady deal. He insulted the entire intelligence community on the Sunday morning news shows. He, he, he, I can’t keep up with all the insane things that keep happening.
With the addition of the current CEO of General Motors as Secretary of State, there will be enough wealth in Trump’s cabinet by itself to be considered an oligarchy. Add to that all three branches of what is supposed to be a representative democracy (we sure must have a shit load of billionaires & millionaires if this are representative) and the possibility of great harm exists. It’s bad enough that the Supreme Court will stay at least as “Scalia conservative” as it was before. Terror gets a Congress where his party is in the catbird seat in both houses. God forbid we lose a liberal Associate Justice to the Supreme Court. This nightmare begs for daily protests.
Ten years ago, I became a very visible activist for cannabis reform. Throughout that time I along with many others have warned, what if conservatives consolidate their power. They created the DEA and they will not be afraid to use its now militarized capabilities. The unrest a move like that would be met with is terrifying to consider. Not to mention the hypocrisy of the “states’ rights” party going against the clear will of nearly half the states in the country. However, that consolidation is complete and in addition to it the POTUS-elect is a teetotaler.
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote. I don’t know about the times but Donald J. Trump should be trying our collective souls. Regrettably, for Mr. Tangerine Terror, we don’t need publishers to spread our words of resistance as Mr. Paine did. Our government put the means to petition our government, influence the press, and reach directly to one and other in our hands via the internet. Protest, petition, and strike.
I’m keeping my plan for Inauguration Day, shall we say semi-private. That is to say, I’m reaching out to a group to participate in a particular action at a particular time. What I am encouraging is for groups to come up with their own idea. One idea I will share is taking a couple of bars of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World”, mash up some lyrics and perform it around the city, again quickly and in strategic locations.

Flash mobs, if kept small enough, which are creative enough in their actions, will get around any & all are permitting requirements. It’s Christmas time on the internet. We all know how viral flash mob videos can go. Peaceably assembled people will protest on January 20, 2017. How many is up to us and remember... Permits, we don’t need no stinking permits.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Taxes

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.