"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong." Friedrich Nietzche

"Any and all non-violent, non-coercive, non-larcenous, consensual adult behavior that does not physically harm other people or their property or directly and immediately endangers same, that does not disturb the peace or create a public nuisance, and that is done in private, especially on private property, is the inalienable right of all adults. In a truly free and liberty-loving society, ruled by a secular government, no laws should be passed to prohibit such behavior. Any laws now existing that are contrary to the above definition of inalienable rights are violations of the rights of adults and should be made null and void." D. M. Mitchell (from The Myth of Inalienable Rights, at: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com/)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Personal Liberty and the Commerce Clause

I can prove that the U.S. government has the legitimate Constitutional power to regulate the lives of all the people living in the United States. That is, that we are all now subjects of the federal government. Seems rather an absurd statement doesn’t it?

It all comes down to laws that Congress passes, using the power of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and how the Supreme Court interprets that power.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution states, in pertinent part: “The Congress shall have Power To . . . regulate Commerce . . . among the several States . . . .”

Way back in 1870, in a case entitled U.S. v. DeWitt, the Supreme Court ruled that a defendant could not be prosecuted—under a federal law that prohibited the selling of certain types of lamp oils due to their high flammability—because he had not been involved in commerce outside of the State of Michigan.

[The] express grant of power to regulate commerce among the States has always been understood as limited by its terms; and as a virtual denial of any power to interfere with the internal trade and business of the separate States; except, indeed, as a necessary and proper means for carrying into execution some other power expressly granted or vested.

In other words, if there was no other constitutionally enumerated power “expressly granted or vested” to Congress, then Congress couldn’t pass laws regulating commerce exclusively within the boundaries of any of the States of the United States.

The Court went on to explain that the federal law being discussed:

As a police regulation, relating exclusively to the internal trade of the States it can only have effect where the legislative authority of Congress excludes, territorially, all state legislation, as, for example, in the District of Columbia. Within state limits, it can have no constitutional operation. This has been so frequently declared by this court . . . that we think it unnecessary to enter again upon the discussion.”

U.S. v. DeWitt, 76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 41 (1870).

So, in 1870, the limits of the federal government relating to interstate commerce was obvious. If a person did not buy or sell across state lines the federal government had no legitimate power to regulate said person or said person’s business.

Now we fast forward to 1964 and look at two cases also decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and see how things had changed and changed dramatically.

[Note: both of these cases pertain to racial segregation. Ending racial segregation is a good thing, but the decisions of the Court reached far beyond that single issue.]

The Court in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S., 379 U.S. 241 (1964), held that Congress could regulate both interstate commerce and intrastate activities that affected commerce as part of its “national police power” to legislate against moral wrongs. (Although, I’m not sure what part of the Constitution enumerates a police power to the federal government allowing Congress to legislate against moral wrongs.)

So now we have the Court saying that even non-interstate commerce could be regulated by the federal government if intrastate activities affected interstate commerce. What affects interstate commerce today? Think about it.

Then, in a companion case, Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964), the Court held that the federal government could regulate small businesses that purchased all of their materials and supplies locally because some of the local suppliers had purchased material from across state lines. As long as there was a reasonable showing that a local business, doing business with other local businesses made substantial impact on interstate commerce, then, fine, the federal government could regulate it. (How much local commerce does it take to make a substantial impact on interstate commerce?)

To govern means to control. To regulate means to control. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the federal government gets to control anything that affects interstate commerce, especially if said affect is substantial.

Who among us hasn’t crossed a state line. If you didn’t walk across then you drove, or flew, or took a bus. The fact that you had to buy gasoline or pay for a ticket would be commerce and probably substantial in its affect. How, in today’s economy, can you not buy things that have come across states lines: cars, gasoline, building materials, computers, clothing, food? The list is endless. Therefore, you, a private citizen, have had and is continuing to have a substantial affect upon interstate commerce.

Does it even matter if you don’t own a business? I think not. I believe that the government has in place enough pro-government court decisions that, should it ever want to, Congress could pass laws to directly control (regulate) each and every one of us just because, by our very existence in this modern society, we have all had a substantial affect on interstate commerce.

As the late Libertarian writer, Murray Rothbard said: It is true that, in the United States, at least, we have a constitution that imposes strict limits on some powers of the government. But, as we have discovered in the past century, no constitution can interpret or enforce itself; it must be interpreted by men. And if the ultimate power to interpret a constitution is given to the government’s own Supreme Court, then the inevitable tendency is for the Court to continue to place its imprimatur on ever-broader powers for its own government.

And so, little by little, court decision by court decision, the federal government takes more power from the states and from the people. It creates more regulations and we, the people, lose more of our personal liberty. Does it matter? It does to me. I like less government control and more personal liberty. How about you?

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Curious Case of Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, in part, that “cruel and unusual punishments” cannot be “inflicted” upon criminal defendants found guilty of a crime.

In the case of Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991), which was about a young man receiving a life sentence without parole for possession of more than 650 grams of cocaine, the U.S. Supreme Court made two rather incredible statements.

First, it said that “[Harmelin’s] suggestion that the crime was nonviolent and victimless is false to the point of absurdity. Studies demonstrate the grave threat that illegal drugs, and particularly cocaine, pose to society in terms of violence, crime, and social displacement.”

That statement, itself, is an “absurdity.” If one studies the real cost of illegal drug use compared to the real cost of legal drug use, especially alcohol, one will find that illegal drugs, cocaine included, are nowhere near as harmful to individuals and society as a whole. This would include the real cost in dollars as well as the real cost in social impact.

The second incredible statement by the Supreme Court announced in Harmelin was that while a life sentence without parole may be cruel, it definitely wasn’t unusual. That is, a punishment for a crime must be both cruel and unusual in order for the Eighth Amendment to apply.

The Court in Harmelin believed that the purpose of the adoption of the Eighth Amendment was to prevent Congress from legislating “cruel methods of punishment that are not regularly or customarily employed.”

Why is this an incredible statement by our highest court? Well, if you think about it logically, that means the Founding Fathers of this nation thought that cruel punishments were just fine, and unusual punishments were just dandy, but you couldn’t have a punishment that was both cruel and unusual.

The cruel and unusual clause of the Eight Amendment comes to us from the English Bill of rights, which had much the same wording. However, in, say, Thirteenth Century England, drawing and quartering, a most hideous and cruel punishment, was not all that unusual. That law was not abolished totally until 1870.

In the case of Harmelin, the argument was that a life sentence (without parole) for less than a kilo of cocaine was cruel and unusual because it was disproportionate, that is, much too severe for the crime committed. The Court disagreed saying that the purpose of the Eighth Amendment was not “a guarantee against disproportionate sentences.”

The Court then stated that “[t]he amount of cocaine Harmelin possessed had a potential yield of between 32,500 and 65,000 doses. For 650 grams of cocaine, that works out to be between 1/100 and 2/100 of a gram per dose. For anyone who has ever done any cocaine, those amounts, as a single “dose,” are laughable.

But let us assume that one ounce of 80 proof alcohol (equivalent to 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine) is an average dose of alcohol, a true narcotic drug. How many ounces of booze—or the beer or wine equivalent—do you think are served every single day in America?

We know that alcohol is more harmful overall than the illegal drugs. We know that the legal substance, tobacco, is the number one killer in America, with alcohol coming in third place. The illegal drugs, as a whole, come twelfth on the list of what kills Americans.

So, from an objective and scientific point of view, giving someone life in prison without parole for 650 grams of cocaine is cruel. How many people die violent deaths from the use of alcohol. Yet making and selling alcohol is not only legal, but considered an legitimate, if not honorable business. Also, a life sentence without parole for 650 grams of cocaine is unusual when you consider that there are people who have committed horrible alcohol related crimes and have done as little as eleven years in prison.

But my point in this article is this: Did the Founding Fathers really mean that only a crime that was both cruel and unusual would be prohibited by the Eighth Amendment? Did they believe that a cruel punishment was okay and that an unusual punishment was okay, just so long as the punishment was not both? I think not.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Purpose of Government in a Truly Free and Liberty-Loving Society

It is not the duty or obligation of the government to see that you are fed, clothed, housed, educated, or employed. It is, however, the duty and obligation of the government to see that no one, whether an individual, a group of individuals, a company or corporation, or even the government itself, stands in your way, in your own endeavor, to feed, clothe, house, educate, and find employment for yourself.

It is the duty of the government—one of its few legitimate duties—to protect your inalienable and absolute right to pursue your life, liberty, property, and happiness as you se fit, as you so choose, but only so long as your behavior is peaceful, voluntary, and honest.

The business of government is neither business itself nor the welfare of the individual. Rather, the business of the government is to protect all people equally—whether rich or poor, uneducated or educated, day laborer or corporate executive, small business owner or large business owner—in their choice of how to live their lives, just so long as their behavior does not violate or threaten to violate the rights of others.

Besides this duty and obligation of the government to equally protect the rights of all individuals, the government then only needs to get out of the way of individuals in their personal and business practices; their right to honestly contract for the use, rental, or sales of their time, their labor, or their property in a voluntary and peaceful manner.

People with their rights so protected can and will make a strong and healthy society. The greatest good for the greatest number will be achieved by such free people with their inalienable rights protected. They will work for their rational self-interest and the vast majority of them will be successful in providing for themselves and their families, at the very least.

If people are irresponsible they will suffer the consequences of their mistakes or irrational behavior. But more importantly, if they are hard-working, smart-working, and persistent they will accrue to themselves the rewards of their self-responsibility and their self-reliance.

Of course, there may be some people who do not wish to work hard or persistently, or who don’t value trying to utilize their talents to the best of their ability. There is nothing wrong with that. Such people, however, have no legitimate claim to the wealth of others who are more dedicated to the work ethic. Nor does the government have the legitimate power to take your wealth and use it for the benefit of those who you have not voluntarily seen fit to support.

There is a case to be made regarding people who, through no fault of their own, have come upon hard times and need the help of others. History has shown that churches and private charity organizations can help such people more efficaciously than government bureaucracies which, by their very nature, are wasteful and inefficient.

There can be no greater teacher than experience. When you must fully suffer the consequences of your mistaken or irresponsible actions, or fully enjoy the rewards of your right actions, you will quickly learn the most efficient and rewarding use of your mind, your body, and your property. But, of course, this can only work if the government protects the right of all people to honestly and peacefully do as they choose, then gets out of the way.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ravens 1, Vultures 0

I live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, about 30 miles north of Fresno. We have ravens here. No crows, just ravens. We also have vultures, turkey vultures, actually. Both species of birds are what I call the garbage men of the wild. They scavenge on roadkill and naturally dead animals. I appreciate them for their helpful niche in nature.

The other day I was on my patio and observed something that I thought was both quite interesting and amusing. Here’s what I saw.

I noticed a vulture come lazily circling into my view. It had something in its beak about the size of a ground squirrel without its tail, maybe a gopher, maybe roadkill, maybe some part of a larger dead animal.

Following that vulture came about a dozen more. All of them making big lazy circles in the sky, not flapping their wings. The vulture with the bit of, well, I’ll just call it roadkill, in its beak became the center of the circling. This was about 200 feet above the ground and about 100 yards north of me.

Then I heard the raucous call of a raven. I saw two of them flying among the vultures. Now comes the interesting and amusing part.

One of the ravens attacked the vulture with the roadkill. (Smaller birds can out-maneuver larger birds and will attack them.) I saw the raven peck the vulture on the head. The vulture dropped whatever it was in its beak. I saw it falling through the air. Then I saw one of the ravens, I don’t know which one, dive on that roadkill and grab it with its right foot right there in mid-air. That was amazing, I thought.

After three or four attempts, the raven transferred the roadkill to its beak. By now it had been joined by the other raven and they flew off, in no hurry, to the south. The buzzards did not chase after them. They just kept circling lazily in the air for a while, then slowly the group broke up and went their separate ways.

Non-Stick Cookware, Perfluoroalkyl Acids, and Your Health

In 1935 Du Pont Corporation used the ad slogan “Better things for better living . . . through chemistry.” I first heard it as “Better living through chemistry.” In 1999, Du Pont changed it to “The miracles of science.”

Our modern technological society could better be called our modern chemical society. We are surrounded by a chemical soup. Some of them helpful. Many of them harmful. The miracles of science and chemistry brought us non-stick cookware. At first it truly seemed a miracle. We could cook our food without it sticking to the pans. But that miracle has come with a price. One that we should no longer pay, if we value our health over convenience.

The publication Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, September 2010, 164(9):860-9, reported that “[p]erfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) are manmade compounds with widespread presence in human [blood].”

A study was done on over 12,000 children and adolescents due to a lawsuit over PFOA contamination in drinking water. The lawsuit was settled pre-trial. The study showed a very high correlation “between . . . PFOA and PFOS and elevated total cholesterol and LDL-C levels” of cholesterol.

PFOA and PFOS are perfluoroalkyl acids. And while they are in many products, especially in the home, possibly one of the most abundant sources of those chemicals is non-stick cookware. When you heat non-stick cookware it starts to vaporized those chemicals, among others. You can breath them in and they will get into the food you eat. The lining of microwave popcorn bags is another source.

This family of chemicals, also known as perfluoronated compounds (PFC), can cause other health problems besides elevated cholesterol levels. Those problems include infertility, thyroid disease, cancer, and immune system problems.

And while I started out mentioning Du Pont, I wish to make clear that the 3M corporation was the major manufacturer of PFOS. It stopped producing it ten years ago under pressure from the EPA, but the chemical is still around, and still affecting our health.

For more a complete report on this issue by Dr. Mercola, go to the following site:

Friday, September 10, 2010

North Carolina Police State

The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association is asking the state to pass a law that would allow the police to access drug prescription records, without needing a warrant signed by a judge, in order to search for painkiller abusers.

According to Sheriff Samuel S. Page, president of the sheriff’s association, “We take that information, we could go and check against that database and see if that person, in fact, appears to be doctor shopping and obtaining prescriptions for the purpose of resell, which is illegal.”

However, the opposition, those who do not want the doctor-patient privilege to be compromised, believe that such a law could make any person who truly suffers from pain and needs the medication a possible criminal suspect.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states the following: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The law the Sheriff’s Association is wanting to get passed would negate the Fourth Amendment. There would be no probable cause, just the police going on fishing expeditions. But there is a bigger issue at stake: The right of all adults to the complete ownership and use of their bodies and minds.

The whole war on drugs is based on religious principles, that the use of certain drugs, including prescription drugs used in a non-doctor-prescribed way, is immoral. And, being immoral, they should be illegal. We’re talking about sins here. Sins are not the legitimate purview of our supposedly secular government.
I agree that anyone selling or giving minors mind-altering, possibly addictive drugs is committing a crime. That is, he or she is harming or endangering the mind and body of a person who in not old enough or experienced enough to make a consenting adult choice.

However, adults have the right to choose. If an adult wishes to use a drug, whether it is one of the presently illegal ones, or whether it is using a prescription drug as a recreational drug, that is their inalienable right. If it is not, then we have no inalienable rights, because then we would not actually own the property of our bodies and minds. The government would.

I also find this push by the police to be a bit hypocritical. It is well documented that the number one violence-causing drug in America is the true narcotic drug alcohol. And the police, as a group, has one of the highest rates, if not the highest rate of alcohol abuse.

What is a crime? Shouldn’t there be a definition as to what a crime is, besides “breaking the law?” I mean, once upon a time, in Colonial America, it was a crime to not go to church on Sunday; it was not a crime to own slaves; it was a crime to help slaves escape from slavery; it was a crime to be seen in public (a beach) in what all women now wear to the beach; it was a crime for a women to be pregnant and not be married. Those “crimes” were all based on the religious-moral beliefs of the time. But we got over it.

Here’s how I think a crime should be defined. A crime is committed by harming another person or their property, or by being an immediate and direct threat to another person or their property. It is not a crime to use drugs. My point about alcohol proves that.

Here is an example: A man can smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and drink whiskey until he pukes and passes out. He does all this in his own house and does not harm anyone else and does not threaten anyone else. He has not committed a crime. He will not be arrested. However, if that same man, goes outside and assaults his neighbor, or shoots his neighbor’s dog, or gets into a car and drives drunk, then he has committed a crime. But he will not be arrested for drinking. He will be arrested for harming someone else or, in the case of drunk driving, for being a danger to others or their property.

I am not, by any means, promoting drug use—alcohol, tobacco, heroin, prescription drugs, or whatever. That is a personal moral choice to be made by each adult. I think a chronic or habitual user of such drugs, when such use interferes with their jobs, their families, and their friends are emotionally damaged people and need help, or else they are just stupid and foolish.

I do believe in the concept of inalienable rights, which means that, as an adult, you own and own completely the property of your body and mind and can decide what to do with it just so long as your actions do not harm or endanger others. The government does not have the legitimate power to stop an adult from using drugs unless there is proof that the person is causing harm to others or is a direct and immediate threat to others.

(For a complete dissertation on this issue, go to: http://dowehaverights.blogspot.com.)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Thoughts on Burning the Koran*

In the Christian religion that I was brought up on, hating is a sin. You can’t get into Heaven if you are a hater. Jesus said: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44, KJB)

I have to wonder if the preacher in Gainesville, Florida, Terry Jones, who has said that he will burn a Koran on September 11th, has actually read and understood what Jesus meant. The Christian religion is supposed to be a religion of tolerance—despite all of the intolerance that those who claim to be Christians have shown in the past. I would expect a preacher to be the most tolerant of Christians because he has, supposedly, studied the Bible more that the laypeople.

What Pastor Jones is threatening to do is an act of hate, pure and simple. It is not an act of loving his perceived enemy, or of praying for those that have done us harm. It is merely a very human, very visceral act of anger and hatred. Shame on you Pastor Jones for calling yourself a Christian.

But, as to the actual act of burning a book, this is not a big deal, or shouldn’t be to anyone who is intelligent and logical. The book itself is not holy. The word of God is holy. The message is holy. The book is merely the printed word of God as—in the case of the Koran—interpreted by Muslim clerics over the ages. You can burn the book but you cannot burn the truth and the message of God.

I have to ask, considering all the uproar that this threat of book-burning has caused, how much uproar would there be in the Christian world if some Muslim Imam, say in Indonesia, decided to burn a Bible? How many Muslim clerics would condemn the act openly? Would it become the international incident that this has become? I think not.

But then, from the evidence that I have observed over the years, the Muslim religion, unlike Christianity, is not a religion of tolerance. For example: Salman Rushtie published The Satanic Verses in 1988. In February of 1989 a death fatwah (which is a legal pronouncement in Islamic countries) was placed against Mr. Rushdie. He had to go into hiding because he wrote a book that many clerics, if not all, in the Islamic world found to be offensive. That would be like the Pope declaring a death sentence on Dan Brown for writing The Da Vinci Code. No tolerance in the Islamic world.

Then there were twelve cartoonist for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten who drew editorial cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. That’s a no-no in the Islamic world. But this was Denmark. The cartoonist were not Muslim. There were death threats against those cartoonist, complete with rewards for their deaths. Further, in riots in Muslim countries related to those editorial cartoons at least 100 people died.

Then there is the case of Theo van Gogh, a controversial Dutch film maker who made a film about how the Islamic culture treats women. It upset an Islamic fundamentalist. While Mr. van Gogh was bicycling to work the Muslim man shot him eight time, then tried to decapitate him. Again, taking the Dan Brown novel, The Da Vinci Code, made into the movie by the same name, what happened to Mr. van Gogh would be like a Christian fundamentalist killing the producer or director of that movie. Hard to imagine in our tolerant, Western world, isn’t it? Not hard to imagine in the intolerant Islamic world, though.

Need more. Here is a quote from the Koran (2:194): “So if anyone transgresses against you, you should pay back in equal coins.” Not exactly like turn the other cheek or pray for those who abuse or persecute you, eh? Of course, there are few really true Christians. How can a true Christian believe in revenge or going to war and killing the enemy? That is totally un-Christ-like. And no, we can’t be perfect, like Christ. But we are supposed to try and behave like Christ would want us to, aren’t we? Take that thought to its logical conclusion.

And don’t bring up the Old Testament and an eye for an eye. That is the Hebrew holy book. Christians, to be called Christians, have to accept and embrace the New Testament, about the teachings of Jesus Christ. And Christ did not say an eye for an eye. He preached tolerance and forgiveness and praying for those that were your enemy. That’s 180 degrees different than the Hebrew’s Old Testament God.

Well, Islam is Islam. Those people have, in my opinion (which has been shaped by Western philosophy, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution) the right to believe whatever they want. To act upon what they believe in our country is quite another thing. There is no right to murder other people over words, even words that discredit or belittle your religion.

However, for Pastor Jones and the radical Islamic jihadists, here is something else to consider: God, the Almighty Creator God, doesn’t need your help to protect Him or His Word. He can do it Himself. And, no, He doesn’t need you to work as His tool. If He wanted to, if He thought it was necessary, He could kill anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world. Therefore, He could have killed Salman Rushtie, the twelve Danish cartoonists, Theo van Gogh, or Dan Brown for that matter. But He didn’t. Perhaps He will take the matter up with them later, after they die. It is not up to you to kill them in the name of what you belief to be your God’s will. When you, as a mere human, act in an intolerant way, you are merely projecting your human emotions into the situation that you find to be offensive. Emotions are, by definitions, irrational.

Finally, for those of you who didn’t know: Jews, Christians, and Muslims are people of the book. What does that mean? That means that the first five books of the Christian Bible are held in common with the Jews and Muslims. That means that the Jews, Christians, and Muslims all believe in the same Almighty Creator God.

How, then, can we be so separated in our other beliefs? And which religion does God think is the one true religion? I don’t know. He hasn’t spoken on that Himself, only the religious leaders of those three faiths have. And, of course, those lay people who have been indoctrinated from birth by one of those various religions know, with absolute certainty, that they are the true believers.

Me? I’m in favor of tolerance. Pastor Jones. You can’t burn the Koran and call yourself tolerant or a Christian.

* I use the spelling, Koran, instead of the more politically correct version, Qur’an, because English doesn’t have the guttural sound that I think people are trying to get by using the Q instead of the K. In English, the closest we can get to it is the K sound and I write and speak in English.

Monday, August 09, 2010

California's Proposition 19

Proposition 19 is yet another attempt to legalize marijuana in the state of California. My question, one that I have asked for decades now is this: By what legitimate constitutional power can the government forbid its adult citizens from full and complete use of the property of their bodies and their minds when such use does not physically harm other people or their property and when such use does not immediately and directly threaten to harm other people or their property?

It is provable fact that marijuana, along with all the other illegal drugs, cause far less harm than alcohol or tobacco do separately. Yet, both of those drugs are legal to adults.

If the basis of the present drugs prohibition is to protect individuals from their own bad choices and to protect society, in general, from the negative consequences of some people’s drug use, then wouldn’t it be logical for the government to go after the most harmful drugs first?

Tobacco use is by far the most harmful drug, or rather, substance, that is legally available to adults. It’s use causes in the neighborhood of 435,000 premature deaths per year. That number doesn’t take into account the disease and incapacitation prior to death by tobacco use, or by those who don’t die directly from tobacco use but are still in poor health because of its use, or the amount of taxpayer money that is consumed to pay for the medical bills of smokers.

Alcohol, by definition, is a narcotic drug. A narcotic drug is one that benumbs you, makes you go to sleep. Drink enough alcohol in too short a period of time and you will go to sleep, permanently. The use of this drug is also responsible for at least 85,000 deaths per year. Also, alcohol is the drug that is most likely to cause violent behavior. The Bureau of Justice Statistics, for 1996, stated that 3 million violent crimes involving alcohol occur each year; that two-thirds of the victims know their assailant; that more than 17 thousand traffic fatalities are alcohol-related (which does not touch on the fact that many, many thousands more people are injured, some seriously, but not killed by alcohol-impaired drivers); and that about 36% of all convicted offenders had been drinking at the time of their offense.

And don’t forget the lost productivity caused by the use of tobacco and alcohol. And I’m not just talking about missing work, or not being able to work efficiently because of a hangover. The long term effects of heavy drinking is disease, destruction of health, and death.

Now, up against that, there is this great wall of opposition against making—rather, re-legalizing—marijuana in the State of California. (It was legal until the 1930’s with no criminal justice problems related to its use . . . until, for political reasons, powerful people wanted to make it illegal.) There has been no known death from the use of marijuana: none, zero, zip, nada. Can you get diseases from smoking pot. Yes, chronic smokers will have more problems than occasional or non-smokers. But, most pot smokers are not the all-day-long, chronic smokers that tobacco users are. Ergo, fewer health problems from the smoking issue.

It is also well-known that almost all the violence related to the presently illegal drug trade, including marijuana, is directly related to the illegality of that trade. When the presently illegal drugs were legal—in 1900, for instance—there was no criminal justice problem associated with their use.

Who opposes the legalization of marijuana? Some, but not all, police officers. (Check out L.E.A.P.—Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.) I rather imagine that prohibitionists—or, as I like to call them: anti-rightists—see their narcotics squad budgets being cut and loss of revenue from property confiscation. Prison guards are naturally opposed to any legalization of any drug. With drug offenders they get maximum length sentences of non-violent prisoners. That’s job security and job safety. Violent street gangs definitely don’t want any drug legalized. Illegal drugs makes lots of money for them. Legalized marijuana would cut into their profits. Ditto for violent drug cartels in Mexico supplying much of the marijuana used in America. Then there are the Humboldt County growers. They don’t tend to be violent, per se, but legalized marijuana would pretty much put them out of business.

What we have in the present drug war, especially with marijuana, is a disconnection between logic and emotion. The so-called war on drugs is fueled by emotion: The use of these substances are immoral, therefore they should be illegal. But the immorality issue is really a religious issue and not suitable for a secular government to interfere with. It is not appropriate for such a government to pass laws regarding morality issues that do not violate the rights of others. A secular government is supposed to protect your rights and to go after those who violate them. You, sitting in your house drinking a beer or smoking a joint do not violate the rights of others, nor are you an immediate and direct threat to the rights of others. A police officer who arrests you for your non-violent use of pot is violating your rights. That makes the police officer the real criminal, as well as the politicians who pass such rights-violating laws, and the judges who sentence people to fines and prison for their non-rights-violating behavior.

Are there drug addicts? Yes. Are there tobacco addicts? Yes. Are there alcoholics (just another word for a drug addict)? Yes. Do all these people have personal problems that need to be addressed in a logical way? Yes. But why do we not arrest an alcoholic unless he harms someone or someone’s property, or is a direct and immediate threat to same? Why is there not equal justice for the use of all drugs?

If marijuana is immoral and, therefore, should be illegal, then how much more immoral is the use of tobacco and alcohol because of the immense amount of harm the use of those two substances cause? How much more illegal—in terms of punishment—should they be? But it all comes back to who really owns the property of your body and your mind: You or the government? If your behavior does not violate the rights of others—the vast majority of marijuana users—then, if you do actually own yourself completely, the government has no legitimate power to stop you from smoking marijuana. It does have—or uses—an illegitimate power, but then all rights-violating, tyrannical governments work that way.

For a greater dissertation on the tyranny of legislating morality, go to Myth of Inalienable Rights.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Compassionate Release of the Lockerbie Bomber

I think we all remember the Lockerbie, Scotland incident where, on Wednesday, December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, bound from London to New York was blown from the skies over Lockerbie by a bomb that had been smuggled on board. Two hundred seventy people were killed. Two hundred fifty-nine on the airplane and eleven on the ground.

The only person convicted of that crime was Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi [al-Megrahi]. (I am sure he did not work alone. And, it was suspected that the government of Libya might have had a hand in that tragic incident.) Then last year, he was given a compassionate release and send back to Libya because, supposedly, he was dying from prostate cancer and only had two or three months to live. He's still alive today. Go figure?

Today, Friday, August 6, 2010, I heard a brief news report on TV (since I switch channels between commercials, I can't remember which network did the reporting) that there were three doctors who had examined al-Megrahi, but only one of them said that he only had two to three months to live.

Of course, now there are rumors flying about that British Petroleum was involved in getting al-Megrahi's release, so they could get oil leases off the coast of Libya. There are even rumors that the Obama administration might have had a hand in the terrorist's release. Again, just rumors, and probably not to be considered seriously.

But here is what is to be considered seriously. Al-Megrahi, with pre-meditation, and in cold blood, planned and executed the murder of 259 people, causing the additional murders of 11 more people on the ground. Where was his compassion? He had none, of course. I'm sure he thought he was doing the work of Allah. I don't know if Allah talked directly to al-Megrahi and said, "Hey al, I just don't have the time to kill these people, so I need you to do it for me, okay?" But I don't think so.

Someone doing the work of Allah, or God, to murder innocent men, women, and children, really aren't doing God's work. They are doing the work that their hatred and intolerance has convinced them to do. They are doing it for the only reason anything gets done, no matter what the rationale: The desire to do it and the ability to do it.

I do not subscribe to any organized religion. The concept of an Almighty Creator God, as imbedded in the religious beliefs of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, or any other relgion for that matter, is irrational on many levels. The least of which is that such a being would need humans to go around, with hatred in their hearts, killing those who do not believe as they do.

That monster, that evil, cold-blooded murderer, al Megrahi, should have been summarily executed upon conviction, either by hanging or beheading--and publicly. Unfortunately, Scotland does not have the death penalty. Therefore, he should have died in prison, prostate cancer or not.

And, to those murderer-hugging, anti-death penalty types out there who think that my belief makes me just like al-Megrahi, I say this: His execution would have been brought about because of his actions, actions that he was not forced to take. His execution would not be, as some would like to believe, a deterrent. It would serve merely to rid society of one more bit of human excrement that has no respect for the rights and lives of others.

And, if BP executives, or any politicians, had any part in getting al-Megrahi his compassionate release for economic gain, I hope that it is discovered, verified, and reported. I hope that the outrage would be so great by the public that such people would be punished severely; for such people are nothing more than greedy, unprincipled human vermin.