Is 2020 the Year the American Dream Ends?

Unrest in Minneapolis over the May 25th death of George Floyd. [[File:2020 Minneapolis Unrest – 49953744417.jpg|thumb|2020 Minneapolis Unrest – 49953744417]]

2020 will definitely be a year written down in the history books. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the 2020 election (and maybe even more to come) all show that 2020 is one of the most eventful years in the recent history of not only America, but mankind as well. This year is definitely impacting countries all around the globe, but the spotlight is shining right on the United States. The U.S. was hit hard with both the COVID-19 pandemic and the BLM Movement. On top of that, 2020 is an election year, which makes almost everything our government does a political move. The events which transpired in 2020 and the way the United States handled these events will tarnish the country’s reputation as the hegemony of the world for  many years to come.

Coronavirus, a highly infectious respiratory virus, has uprooted almost all of our lives. During the months of December – February, the coronavirus was hardly mentioned in our country. America acted as if nothing could touch them. This overconfidence, as we all know, very quickly turned into neglect, and finally into fear. As of June 2020, there have been a confirmed number of 2.14 million cases and 117,000 deaths in the United States attributed to Covid-19. Other countries have nowhere near the amount of cases and deaths we have; even densely populated countries like India and China are doing much better than us. So, what exactly did we do wrong? 

First of all, we weren’t prepared to handle a crisis like this, mostly because we didn’t have any experience handling this type of crisis in our recent past. A country which did a great job at handling the outbreak was South Korea. When the virus broke into the U.S. and almost everywhere around the world (March – April), testing was the first-hand priority of every country. The United States struggled with testing, while South Korea was already sending out testing kits for people to do at their own homes. In mid-March, the U.S. and South Korea had the same number of coronavirus-caused fatalities—approximately 90, but in April, South Korea lost a total of 85 souls to COVID-19, while the U.S. lost 62,000. Though the population of the U.S. is six times greater than South Korea, a very wide margin is still there between the two nations. However, it’s not just that the U.S. was extremely inferior to the leaders of South Korea, but South Korea had experience dealing with this situation before. In 2015, a viral respiratory infection called MERS caused an outbreak in South Korea. The virus spread quickly, with the majority of it spreading in hospitals. After the outbreak, South Korea decided to change their laws in order to be better prepared for a situation like this, and they were exactly right in doing so.

Another problem the U.S. had in responding to the coronavirus was the seriousness and aggressiveness they attacked the virus with. The country where the virus appeared, China, had a very low number of cases despite its population and population density being much higher than America (though there are reports which believe the numbers are low balled by the Chinese government). Despite those reports, it does make sense why these case numbers are so low. China immediately locked their cities down, with Wuhan being the first city locked down on January 23.  In our case, President Donald Trump did not seem in full support of a lockdown, which may have put more citizens in danger. A study by Columbia University estimated that around 83% of deaths could have been avoided if measures had been taken two weeks earlier around March 1st. Even New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who was one of the first governors to place a lockdown on their state, said,

If this country knew more and knew it earlier we could have saved many more lives.

Along with this deadly pandemic, another major event was (and is still currently) taking place: the Black Lives Matter movement. While the movement had existed for nearly a decade before 2020, it surged in popularity in 2020. On May 25, 2020, a 46 year old man in Minneapolis named George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer. All the unrest which had built up in the black community about police brutality and racism had finally come to light, like a volcano sitting over the years waiting to finally explode. Protests demanding police accountability broke out all across the world, but along with peaceful protests, there were also riots and lootings. Athletes, musicians, politicians and more all had words to say about this movement. However, the thing which makes this situation so complicated is that there aren’t just two viewpoints here. The situation basically creates four general parties: protesters, rioters, police, and politicians.

Although the BLM movement is taking place all over the world, the United States is where it has been its strongest. These protests were bound to happen due to the country’s history. Striving to end slavery, abolitionists with President Lincoln sparked a change in the country, causing the country to divide and eventually break out into a Civil War. Years later, Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists made a change in the civil rights of African Americans. Both times, peaceful protests and violence were both there. If the BLM movement continues to surge, it will take place as another major event for the equality of African Americans. America has to handle this in the right way in order to allow little to none violence and to bring the country together.

The politicians are where the change has to start. Politicians run this country, and lately, they have been doing a terrible job. To start first on a smaller scale: the governors of states have to end the looting and riots, but in a careful manner, so that the police don’t look worse in harming people. According to Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analyst Meyer Shields,

the losses (the damage from riots) will combine with losses related to COVID-19 claims and property damage from a predicted above-average hurricane season to amount to a ‘capital event’ for some reinsurers.

Also, during the fall months, masks may also become a necessity with the threat of another COVID-19 spike. However, the protesters and those supporting the BLM movement also have to understand some things in the long run for America.

[[File:Man exchanges words with police outside the 3rd precinct (49945992677).jpg|thumb|Man exchanges words with police outside the 3rd precinct (49945992677)]]

The human mind is a very free-willing and independent creature. A regular person can think of the most atrocious ideas in the world, but it will never matter because it is his own thoughts. The important thing to remember is to let your brain think some more of the different outcomes before you do every idea which pops in your head. The same idea can be used with regards to racism. Racism and bias will always be there in every mind all around the world. However, it is very important for a person to not let those bad thoughts spread further than your own atmosphere. Especially for a job like a police officer, bias can’t be the thought process behind your actions, like Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd. Another thought is that there was no racist act done by Derek Chauvin. If it was a white woman or an Asian male, would it still have been a racist act? The bottom line is that the action never should’ve taken place, which is what America needs to fix to get back on top. 

Politics, as we already talked about, are a major component of running this country. In order for the United States to reclaim their title on the world, a strong leader has to be able to connect with the black community and support the BLM movement while also standing with the police. The position which gives a person the most support for this to happen is the president. Times are different now, which makes it very unlikely for a leader with no political power to step up, like Martin Luther King or Malcom X. The most important power a president has is the name itself. However, the two major candidates up for election, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, don’t have what it takes to fill that role.

Donald Trump has already shown he shouldn’t be re-elected for another term. Just focusing on his actions in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic should’ve been addressed weeks before he took action. He also gave the impression of continuously undermining this pandemic with words, like

It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle—it will disappear,

and his actions, such as not wearing a mask in public. He’s also stated that there will be no lockdown or any type of action taken if there is a second coronavirus spike. The problem is that if he thinks and acts this way, a lot of his followers do too, which allows the pandemic to grow. Also, we all know the endless ridiculous statements he has made over the years. But a major takeaway any person can see from just one speech of President Trump is that he’s ignorant and rude to anyone who disagrees with him. A leader like this will not bring the country together, but will only divide it even more.

Joe Biden is also not a candidate fit to lead this country out of the hole it has dug itself into. One of the major reasons for this is the notorious 1994 crime law, which Joe Biden helped write and majorly supported. The 1994 crime law was a way for Democrats to address the rising high crime and violence. There were some beneficial acts the crime law had, like the Violence Against Women Act, to provide more resources on domestic violence and rape, and a provision to help fund background checks for guns. However, what it really did was hurt African Americans disproportionality when it came to sentencing and trials. One thing the law did was impose harsh new penalties for justice-involved youth. According to the Center for American Progress,

The crime bill allowed prosecutors to charge 13-year-old children as adults for certain crimes. As a result, today, two-thirds of Americans who were sentenced to life in prison as juveniles are black.

Joe Biden is still in agreement with this law and brings it up many times to promote his campaign, which still shows his “tough on crime” attitude, and that doesn’t boil over well to the BLM movement and their community. Either Joe Biden or Donald Trump will be our next president, which means four years of the U.S. being number 2 or 3 or even worse in the world compared to other countries like China or South Korea. If Joe Biden is voted president, and a strong republican cannot compete with Biden, then another four years goes by for American citizens. This cycle will keep happening unless a president comes into office with the mindset of tackling these issues head on and no longer depending on failed tradition.

The dominance of the United States will undoubtedly be shaken after 2020, but it’s not just the events of 2020 which will ruin the supremacy of the country. The U.S. has been making major mistakes since it claimed its spot as the global hegemon after World War 2. The events of 2020 just show the mistakes the country has been making over and over and over again: poor leadership and racism. These next few years may also have people thinking of restructuring the U.S. government, which may be the change America needs. Nonetheless, the United States will definitely be paying the price for these mistakes and so will its citizens.

Saving Adolescents Through Drug Testing

Nowadays, middle schoolers are more likely than ever to use drugs recreationaly. To remind you, students in middle school range from 12-14. Yes, you read that correctly. Students as young as 12 are using drugs recreationaly. This is partly because students can access drugs in ways that schools can’t prevent. Drug testing can’t prevent students from buying the drugs, but it can prevent students from using the drugs, at least on a consistent basis. While it won’t solve the problem completely, drug testing is an efficient way for schools to know if their students are using drugs.

Drug testing, also known as toxicology screening, is a way for schools to analyze just how many students are consuming illegal substances. The main substances that schools look for are alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis. According to an article written in 2014 by the National Institute of Drug Abuse,

Alcohol and tobacco are the drugs most commonly abused by adolescents, followed by marijuana.

Adolescents are more likely to use these substances, in part, because they are much easier to find.

The drug tests are relatively simple, consisting of urine samples being exposed to certain substances to see the reaction. For example, when a student has cannabis in their system, to find this out, the testers would add a substance called Duquenois-Levine reagent. This substance will turn the testing solution from white to red. This is because the Duquenois-Levine reagent has a chemical reaction with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes the color of the solution to change. The process is equally simple for tobacco and alcohol as well.

Furthermore, drug testing could exponentially lower the recreational use of drugs by adolescents. In this article, written by Sober Living By the Sea (a drug abuse treatment center), the author refers to cannabis, non-prescription cough medicine, and inhalants. The article states,

About 15 percent of students report having tried these substances.  Other drugs used by smaller percentages of middle school students include Vicodin, OxyContin and other prescription drugs.

There are more than 7.2 million students in middle schools today. This means nearly 1,080,000 middle schoolers in the United States have tried or are currently using illicit substances. Drug tests can lower this number without a doubt. Even if drug tests stop 1 kid from consuming drugs, that’s a whole life that has been curbed from the negative consequences of a young and immature mind consuming mind altering substances. Toxicology screening is a viable and ready solution to adolescent drug abuse.

Some would say drug testing is not the correct path to take for middleschoolers. However, the effectiveness of drug screening has already been laid out. According to an article written in 2018 by the Food and Drug Association,

The at-home testing part of this test is fairly sensitive to the presence of drugs in the urine. This means that if drugs are present, you will usually get a preliminary (or presumptive) positive test result.

The concept of drug testing is not only beneficial to the safety of schools, but the health of students as well. If a student knows they will be drug tested, they will lay off drug use to avoid consequences, which also leads to better health overall. Drug testing has also been proven effective, which is necessary for schools. As one can see, drug tests are what will save middle school students from drug abuse.

The Future of Race-Based Admissions

A few days ago, students at Glenbrook South and Glenbrook North high school in Illinois made it into the news when they posted a racist video on Snapchat. None of the news agencies are releasing the video, but as a high school student currently attending Glenbrook South, I had the unfortunate opportunity to watch it. In the video, young, white men shout “n****r” repeatedly, and threaten black students from other schools to fight them.  Sadly, this display of stupidity and ignorance has become the norm for many students nowadays.

People all over the world face discrimination of some sort. However, in America, racism is almost everywhere and has affected the educational system to a surprising degree. Race-based admissions have become a huge issue for students as they face racism and are not allowed to get into the college they want because of a forced idea of college diversity. However, colleges have been taking race into consideration because a lot of students from different ethnicities don’t have the same opportunities as others, such as rich white students.  The U.S. academic system

is one of the most unequal in the industrialized world, and students routinely receive dramatically different learning opportunities based on their social status.

As different ethnicities get varying advantages and disadvantages, race-based college admissions are becoming a hot issue with students filing suits against colleges. With all these conflicts, should race be an aspect used in college admissions, or is it an injustice used against people of varying ethnicities?

Kumar Padmanabh with Students.jpg

Furthermore, some people think that race-based college admission is an injustice and unfair to different ethnicities. Students from different races are sometimes viewed as geniuses. However, in college admission, being defined as a genius is detrimental as it raises the expectation of that student. As college administrators at highly selective private colleges view test scores and grades, Asian students need to get higher scores compared to their peers just to fairly compete with them. 

SAT scores 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than blacks.

Asian students have a disadvantage as they need to get a higher score than others. In addition, Asian students are usually seen as not unique because they have the same exact profile as other Asians in college admissions, which makes Asian students seem bland.  Because of this, colleges often reject their college admissions as colleges look

for an interesting student who will bring something of value to the community.

Also, the majority of students at colleges are white, which means there will naturally be less minorities accepted. For example, Harvard, UCLA, Yale, and other similar schools have a majority of students being white. Princeton professor, Uwe Reinhardt, brings up the topic of the diversity of colleges, and states

Yale’s student population is 58 percent white and 18 percent Asian. Would it be such a calamity if those numbers were reversed?

Data reveals that schools have higher admission rates for some ethnicities, while some others have a lower admission rate. Students such as Asians have a disadvantage and face injustices because of race-based admissions. 

Despite the general drawbacks, race-based college admissions is beneficial for college diversity and for students in need. Some people often argue that race-based admission as an affirmative action to make up the wrongs in past. For example, some people see that African students have been done wronged in the past, so colleges accept them in order to make up the wrong. People see this as affirmative action that favors minority groups and usually gives disadvantages to Asians and Whites. However, this is completely wrong, as the goal for race-based admission is student diversity. People think it is unacceptable to put bias in accepting people because of injustices, but, in reality,

considering race in the admissions process has, in general, been deemed acceptable if it is designed to let the educational benefits of student diversity flow.

In addition, some people view the situation as being unjustified and unfair for students with high academic achievements. However, it is quite fair as students in minority group have a huge disadvantage during high school. Many minorities in large industrial states,

are located in property-poor urban districts which fare the worst in educational expenditures (or) in rural districts which suffer from fiscal inequity.

In these locations, students receive fewer academic resources than other students from richer areas. Also, in these areas, most minority students attend large schools,

on average, more than twice as large as predominanFile:College graduate students.jpgtly white schools and reaching 3,000 students or more in most cities.

This directly affects the quality of their school’s curriculum and materials. Minority groups have less opportunities than privileged students, which should be taken into consideration in college admissions to see if that person from that minority group can achieve more than a privileged student with the same amount of resources. With this in mind, minorities from poverty-stricken backgrounds don’t stand a chance against privileged students as they see the possibility of each student’s future. Overall, race-based admissions are fair and brings equality in opportunities for  students of different ethnicities.

Considering both the benefits and detriments of race-based admissions, this issue will continue to be a huge deal in the future. As students of different ethnic backgrounds go to college, there will be a greater increase in school diversity because the population will undoubtedly become more racially mixed. Because America is known as the land of immigrants, there is going to be a gradual increase of different races in the U.S. Colleges will have to grow in size as there will be more students to admit. Because of the population of the U.S. being more diversified in the future, there will be a higher percentage of different minority groups. If there are too many college admissions, then schools will have to go with admitting the best students. Schools will only admit the best students across the country, because if college administrators are caught with being biased in admissions, then it will lead to many court cases. Another potential future for college admissions is not based on race admissions, but rather based on the percentage of each race in the population. If the populations of different ethnicities are more equal one day, then schools should accept an amount of people correlating to the population of the ethnic group. However, this is very unlikely because it will take many generations for the percentage of each ethnic group in America to be equal. It is most likely that technology will overcome this problem before the population of each ethnic group in America becomes equal. Technology could help admit students more fairly and efficiently. For example, technology could formulate the statistics of a student’s success in a particular college.

In the next couple of years, race-based admissions will continue, but there will be more court cases. Race-based admissions are not perfect, but they are necessary in order to make opportunities equal. 

State Nullification and the Tenther Movement: Fight the Fed

state nullification jefferson

State nullification is the only way to tame the Leviathan! http://logisticsmonster.com/

State nullification is a term you will be hearing more and more often in the coming years.  It is taking place all across the nation as states fight to take back power from the Leviathan-like federal government of the United States.

Simply put, a vast majority of Americans believe the federal government is out of control. Activities like NSA spying, the use of drones, the passing of the NDAA, illegal search and seizures, and overall flagrant disregard for the rights and will of the people have forced the hand of individuals and states. The people are taking a stand, and state nullification appears to be the key to success.

Over the years the Fed has been placing greater emphasis on its own will rather than the will of the people. The Fed has actually gone so far as to throw away the writ of habeaus corpus whenever it sees fit under the Patriot Act and NDAA. There are various solutions to the power struggle that individuals and groups have experimented with.  Some people choose to protest, some revolt, while others choose to cast their vote and hope for the best. All of these methods have wildly mixed results.

State nullification, however, is an historically effective tool used by of one of the fastest growing movements in America.  This movement has been wining major battles with the Fed for years, and there is no sign that state nullification will stop working as a viable solution in the near future. The movement I’m referring to is the Tenther Movement.

 

The Tenther Movement

tenther movement state nullification

Proponents of state nullification are part of the Tenther Movement. sodahead.com

The Tenther Movement, also called the State Sovereignty Movement or Tenth Amendment movement, is spreading like wildfire. It is founded on a political ideology which posits that the federal government is acting unconstitutionally, and that it is the states’ obligation to stand against an unconstitutional federal government.  It is a state-wide refusal of what is considered flagrant disregard for constitutional law on the part of the federal government. Most importantly, refusal is taken a step further with federal laws overturned through state nullification.

According to the supremacy clause of the Constitution no state is allowed to create a law that is in direct conflict with a federal law. Incredibly, despite the legal reality of the supremacy clause, state nullification has worked in the past, and continues to work today. The numbers are staggering, with some reports showing that 80% of states have at least one law in direct opposition to a federal law.

The Tenther movement was inaccurately named after the tenth amendment to the Constitution, which states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This is a misnomer however since the implied validity of state nullification goes beyond just the wordage of the Constitution to the very words spoken during various constitutional conventions.  In fact, supporters of state nullification have attempted to shed the name “Tenther” because it was created as a pejorative by those opposing their ideals. The name, however, has stuck.

If state nullification is so popular, why have you never heard of it? Actually, you have heard of it, you probably just didn’t realize it was a collective movement. In truth, any state victory against the Fed is associated with the Tenther Movement in some way. Check out this list of instances where state nullification is either being considered, currently being passed, or has already been used to trump federal law in a wide array of states:

As you can see, there is a great deal of successful, and ongoing state nullification taking place in the United States.  Taken as a single instance state nullification may not mean much. Taken collectively, however, state nullification represents a powerful, growing trend in practicing state sovereignty. Every time a state stands up to what it perceives as the Fed overstepping its boundaries all other states benefit. State victories set national precedents. Consider, it wasn’t until cannabis was recreationally legalized in Washington and Colorado that hemp became legal at the federal level for 10 different states that are ready to grow it.

How are states getting away with this, and do their actions stand a fighting chance in a court of law?

Related Article: The Drones Are Coming!

 

Is State Nullification Constitutional?

According to legal scholars, the Constitution, along with various court rulings, make it clear that the federal government reigns supreme. If a state’s activities or laws impede the federal government in any way, the state is legally bound to change in accordance with the federal government. The supremacy clause is clear about one thing: the game is rigged. No matter what, the Fed wins.

state nullification federal law

State nullification? According to the current Fed, keep dreaming… http://www.federalcriminallawyer.us/

Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who specializes in constitutional law explains that,

the law is clear — the supremacy clause says specifically that the federal laws are supreme over contrary state laws, even if the state doesn’t like those laws.

As we learned above though, the world of law and the real world are very different places. Somehow, the Fed is losing. Its prohibitions and decrees are being overturned by states all across the country.

One of the most outspoken voices supporting state nullification is a man named Tom Woods. Woods is being featured in the mainstream media and invited to legal seminars across the nation. Everyone wants to know the same thing: What makes proponents of state nullification think they have a leg to stand on in a court of law?

Let’s take a look at the wording of the supremacy clause . It reads:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

According to Woods and other state nullification supporters, the key to their movement is the bolded text, “which shall be made in Pursuance thereof.” According to Brion McClanahan, Ph.D. in American History from the University of South Carolina and a faculty member at Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom,

All laws made in pursuance of the Constitution, or those clearly enumerated in the document, were supreme, State laws notwithstanding. In other words, the federal government was supreme in all items clearly listed in the document.

state nullification tom woods

This is Tom Woods book which outlines the legality and necessity of state nullification. http://www.libertyclassroom.com

Thus, anything not clearly outlined in the Constitution does not fall under the supremacy clause. There is nothing about healthcare, cannabis, or the NSA in the Constitution, thus, according to state nullification supporters, these issues fall under the tenth amendment: state enumeration.

Concerns regarding the federal power granted by the supremacy clause are nothing new. Debates over the clause date back to the Constitutional Convention held on May 31, 1787, when Edmund Randolph presented the Virginia Plan. The plan granted the federal government the power to “negative,” or shred any extant state law if it deemed a state was “incompetent.” Pierce Butler along with other representatives from South Carolina stressed that this plan was too vague and stripped the states of too much power. In the end, the idea of a federal “negative” power was voted down.

In subsequent Constitutional and ratifying conventions the supremacy clause was continuously debated. In response to attacks made on the supremacy clause, William Davie, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from North Carolina and supporter of the Constitution explained to those against the supremacy clause that,

This Constitution, as to the powers therein granted, is constantly to be the supreme law of the land. Every power ceded by it must be executed without being counteracted by the laws or constitutions of the individual states. Gentlemen should distinguish that it is not the supreme law in the exercise of power not granted. It can be supreme only in cases consistent with the powers specially granted, and not in usurpations.

In plain English, the supremacy clause ONLY pertains to those powers clearly granted by the Constitution. Furthermore, Supreme Court justice James Iredell of North Carolina argued that the supremacy clause,

is supposed to give too much power, when, in fact, it only provides for the execution of those powers which are already given in the foregoing articles. If Congress, under pretence of executing one power, should, in fact, usurp another, they will violate the Constitution.

According to Tenthers the words of both the supremacy clause as well as those of our founding fathers make it clear that federal power is limited to those powers outlined in the Constitution only.  State nullification likely wouldn’t hold up in a contemporary court of law, yet it appears to be completely in accordance with the words of the Constitution.

Related Article:  ObamaCare and the 49-Employee Company

 

Tenther Philosophy: Argument for State Nullification 

What we have here is a clash of semantics and philosophy dating back centuries. The founding fathers, as well as contemporary interpretations of the Constitution, are all locked in a Locke vs. Hobbes fight:  John Locke’s idea of a fully self-governed society vs. Thomas Hobbes idea of an all-powerful leviathan government.  Has the Fed turned into Hobbe’s Leviathan? According to Tenthers, absolutely.

state nullification thomas jefferson

Thomas Jefferson prescribed state nullification as the necessary cure to tyranny. http://northcarolina.tenthamendmentcenter.com/

Woods reminds us that both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison warned of an out of control central government, and prescribed state nullification as the proper weapon to fight against a leviathan government. Woods explains why we need state nullification:

As Jefferson warned, if the federal government is allowed to hold a monopoly on determining the extent of its own powers, we have no right to be surprised when it keeps discovering new ones. If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, it will continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other much-touted limits on government power. In his Report of 1800, Madison reminded Virginians and Americans at large that the judicial branch was not infallible, and that some remedy must be found for those cases in which all three branches of the federal government exceed their constitutional limits.

Woods sums up the basis of Tenther philosophy using the following three points:

1. The states preceded the union. The Declaration of Independence speaks of free and independent states. The ratification of the Constitution was accomplished not by a single national vote, but by the individual ratification of various states.

2. The American system appoints no government as sovereign. The people of each state are sovereigns, and they apportion power between themselves, their state governments, and the federal government. This apportioning is a sovereign exercise, not an impairment to sovereignty.

3. Since the people of each state are sovereign, they themselves are the proper disputants when the federal government acts unconstitutionally. The people of the state are responsible for reviewing whether their agent (the federal government) was intended to exercise such powers in question. The sovereigns must retain the power to restrain the agent they themselves created. 

If the sovereign power of the people cannot be retained, a leviathan inevitably grows, resulting in the loss of civil liberties and rights. This is precisely the reason the government is allowed to continue violating the rights of the American people on a daily basis.

Related Article: A Case Against Gun Control

 

What if State Nullification Passes Segregation or Slave Laws?

This is the most common issue raised by scholars when discussing the validity and constitutional safety of state nullification.  For obvious reasons, it is an extremely valid point.

Woods uses history as his defense. According to Woods, state nullification has never been used in support of slavery. State nullification was instead used against slavery. Wisconsin nullified the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and safely transported a runaway slave to Canada.  While the Wisconsin nullification is true, the full breadth of Woods assertion is not.

state nullification brown v board of education

Brown V. Board of Education shook up the nation. Those that attempted state nullification got shut down. http://www.thelostyear.com/

When Brown V. Board of Education passed in 1954, several states attempted to use state nullification to claim that the supreme court decision held no legal ground in defiance of state laws. All nine justices signed an opinion stating that the states were the ones in defiance of constitutional law.

In the 1958 case of Cooper V. Aaron, in response to Arkansas attempting to keep schools segregated using state nullification, the Supreme Court stated that the Brown V. Board of Education decision,

can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes for segregation whether attempted ‘ingeniously or ingenuously’.

The supreme court put a seeming halt to the state nullification debate when it stated in the case of Bush V. Orleans Parish School Board that,

The conclusion is clear that [nullification] is not a constitutional doctrine. If taken seriously, it is illegal defiance of constitutional authority. Otherwise, ‘it amounted to no more than a protest, an escape valve through which the legislators blew off steam to relieve their tensions.’ . . . However solemn or spirited, [nullification] resolutions have no legal efficacy.

In the end, this point stands as a valid argument against state nullification. History however stands to show that state nullification has only been successful in defiance of slavery, not in defense.

The Supreme Court explains clearly that state nullification is a bunch of baloney, but according to the Constitution, state nullification is perfectly valid.  The Supreme Court claims that the federal government is the supreme law of the land in all matters it deems constitutional, but the Constitution limits the Feds power to only that which is outlined in the Constitution. What’s going on here?

 

Nobody’s Right, and Everyone’s Wrong

The Supreme Court doesn’t believe that state nullification holds any legal backing. The words of America’s founding fathers, specific words used in the supremacy clause, and the sovereignty of the individual claim otherwise. Who’s right? I don’t know that there is a clear answer.

state nullification map country

In reality, the country looks more like this. regansravings.blogspot.com

The point is that the Tenther Movement, whether good or bad, is proof that states have the power, if not the right, to self govern themselves. For whatever reason, state nullification is working, and is proving to be an effective method in creating change in the current “Leviathan” federal government.

Did all hell break loose in Colorado when cannabis was recreationally legalized? No, because everyone who is getting high now was already getting high before pot was legalized. The only visible difference this act of state nullification has made is the amount of money and business flowing into each state. Colorado and Washington hit the jackpot. Another great upside to the current state nullification craze is lower suicide rates in states that have legalized medical marijuana. If this movement is saving lives, maybe it’s worth a look?

Even though the Tenther Movement is taking place on a state level, it is people like you who ensure the snowball of change begins rolling at the local level. If the Tenther Movement has shown us anything it is that we the people are not powerless. If the federal government is out of control, it is the peoples’ duty to ensure that reasonable order is restored. Alone we can do nothing, but together, we the people have power.

Head to the Tenth Amendment Center to get up to date information about state nullification taking place in each state. The site also offers resources to help you get started on leading your own state in the process of state nullification.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Sources:

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes/leviathan-contents.html

https://www.aclu.org/blog/tag/ndaa

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/illegal-search-and-seizure

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-suspension-of-habeas-corpus-in-america/5311701

http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/?doing_wp_cron=1392051648.6796290874481201171875

http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/7701-state-vs-federal-the-nullification-movement

http://www.annenbergclassroom.org/speakouts.aspx?name=what-happens-when-states-enact-legislation-that-contradicts-federal-laws-&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/tenth_amendment

http://reason.com/blog/2009/09/21/the-tenther-smear

http://tracking.tenthamendmentcenter.com/?doing_wp_cron=1392252846.9485108852386474609375

http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20140210-906077.html

http://definitions.uslegal.com/s/supremacy-clause/

http://www.libertyclassroom.com/nullification/

http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=7

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_531.asp

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/print_documents/a6_2s19.html

http://jim.com/hobbes.htm

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/02/constitution.html

http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/dictionary/index.asp?action=view&term_id=2485&keyword=booth

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/358/1/case.html

http://www.leagle.com/decision/19601104188FSupp916_1899

http://ideas.repec.org/p/iza/izadps/dp6280.html

http://grassroots.tenthamendmentcenter.com/?doing_wp_cron=1392303861.0843660831451416015625

Cannabis or Cannabust: Why That “Rocky Mountain High” May Come Crashing Down on Your Heads (At Least on Your Potheads)

legal pot shop open

In Washington and Colorado toking is completely legal at the state level. http://www.tokeofthetown.com/

It’s a Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rain fire in the sky
Friends around the campfire and everybody’s high

-John Denver

When the late John Denver recorded these prophetic lyrics in 1972, who could have foreseen the day, 35 years later, when Rocky Mountain High would take its place next to Where the Columbines Grow as the official co-state song of the State of Colorado? On November 6, 2012, a mere five years after Rocky Mountain High attained such legendary status, the voters in Colorado approved a ballot initiative that would make it the first state, quickly followed by the state of Washington, to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.

The scenes on television that November evening were nothing short of remarkable.  As most of America was fixated on the results of the presidential election, along with numerous congressional, gubernatorial, state and local elections also taking place on that fateful November day, an awkward assortment of casual marijuana users, hard core potheads and aging hippies rejoiced while watching the network newscasters announce the results of the Colorado and Washington ballot initiatives on marijuana.[1]

Related Article: The History and Legality of Cannabis Use Around the World

cannabis legal colorado

A thick haze covers Colorado, but it’s a legal haze. http://traviswright.com/

As the circus atmosphere continued to play out on television screens across the country throughout the evening, a peculiar assemblage of psychologists, sociologists, criminologists, policy pundits and other talking heads debated endlessly about the pros and cons of the legalization of marijuana.  Legal scholars, on the other hand, focused on the potentially titanic clash between these state actions and Article VI (2) of the United States Constitution, commonly referred to as the Supremacy Clause.

Inevitably, there will be a deluge of legal battles in which marijuana users are surely going to be unwitting pawns.  The vast majority of legal challenges to these state laws will arise not from the legalization of the substance itself, but rather from the notion that certain states are apparently determined to trump federal law in violation of the most revered and sacred legal document in our nation’s history: The Constitution of the United States.

Another complicating factor that cannot be overlooked is the shockingly complicit position taken by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).  Under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, the DOJ has given a clear signal to the burgeoning marijuana industry that the federal authorities will not be enforcing federal law in a manner that would require the industry to have any serious concerns.  In fact, it is not a stretch to interpret the DOJ’s official guidance on the issue as tacit approval.  While the underlying motivations fueling this controversial decision are certainly nebulous,[2] the fact remains that Mr. Holder has apparently made the decision that the DOJ should not be taking aggressive enforcement action against certain groups of lawbreakers.

 

What is the Supremacy Clause?

The verbiage of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause is deceptively simple;

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State notwithstanding.

In plain English, this means that no state has the power to enact a law that is in direct conflict with a federal law, which is precisely what Colorado and Washington appear to have done.

Related Article: Federal Judge Urges Legalization of Marijuana

The constitution may be old, but it is still the law of the land. http://www.senatorhill.com/

The constitution may be old, but it is still the law of the land. http://www.senatorhill.com/

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (commonly referred to as the “Controlled Substances Act”).  In other words, as seen through the federal lens, marijuana is an extremely dangerous drug with no medical benefits.  Accordingly, under the Controlled Substances Act it is a federal crime to manufacture, distribute, dispense or to possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense marijuana.  Regardless of how narrowly these state laws are construed by the courts, it is difficult to see how it is plausible to reconcile these laws with the conflicting federal law in a way that would allow state and federal law to coexist.

The national debate that has been raging in this country for decades about whether marijuana is, or is not, a dangerous drug worthy of its Schedule I Controlled Substance designation is beyond the scope of this article.  That issue is of little significance when compared to the dangerous precedent being established by a few “progressive” states and the Obama administration’s DOJ which, at least to this point, seems determined to facilitate the unconstitutional actions of those states.  The remainder of this article is devoted to the analysis of three issues: (1) the obvious clash between these particular state laws (with the focus on Colorado’s law) and the conflicting federal law; (2) the thinly-veiled efforts of the Obama administration to pacify the marijuana enthusiasts; and (3) the likely future of these laws.

 

The Colorado Law

Effective December 10, 2012, Article 18, Section 16 of Colorado’s state Constitution became law.   Like many laws, especially those that are bound to be controversial and challenged in the courts, the Colorado law is meticulously drafted and painfully verbose.  However, for the purposes of this analysis the critical provisions can be found in subsections 3 (Personal use of marijuana) and 4 (Lawful operation of marijuana-related facilities).

Related Article: Cannabis Cures Cancer and More: A Thorough History and Review of the Evidence

legal state laws

State enumeration rights apply as long as the constitution doesn’t have a say in the matter. susops.blogspot.com

Subsection 3 provides, in pertinent part, that persons over 21 years of age may (a) possess, use, display, purchase or transport marijuana in quantities not exceeding one ounce as well as marijuana accessories; (b) possess, grow, process or transport up to six marijuana plants, no more than three of which are mature, flowering plants, and possess the marijuana produced by those plants on the premises where the plants are grown, provided that the growing takes place in an area that is enclosed and locked and provided that the marijuana is not made available for sale; (c) transfer no more than one ounce of marijuana without remuneration to a person who is 21 years of age or older; (d) consume marijuana as long as it is not consumed publicly or openly or in a manner that endangers others; and (e) assist others who are at least 21 years of age in the acts set forth in (a) through (d) above.

Subsection 3 essentially allows anyone who is 21 or older to have their way with marijuana as long as they limit their indulgence in accordance with the seemingly arbitrary quantities as well as the production, transit and transfer methods established by that subsection.  Undoubtedly, this provision will seem reasonably clear and unambiguous to the average reader, especially when it is read in conjunction with subsection 2 (Definitions) and in the proper context with the other provisions of the law. Predictably, however, we are just beginning to hear the tedious cacophony emanating from the armies of lawyers and judges that will twist these words into a convoluted statutory compost pile.

Subsection 4 establishes restrictions governing the marijuana supply chain from production and processing through transportation and storage to the retail stores and end users.  Think of it as a crop-harvesting process similar to corn or soybeans, just slightly more sophisticated and aromatic.

Related Article: Ingredient in Pot Decreases the High: THC, Pot Shops and Lobbyists

legal laws cannabis

Judges and lawyers on both sides of the debate are feverishly analyzing the laws. http://www.pauldzirvinskis.com/

The truly intriguing parts of the Colorado law begin with subsection 5 (Regulation of marijuana).  As comical as it may be to conjure up images of the side show that will come to town when the legion of lawyers and judges begin dissecting this law, just think of the confusion that is bound to come out of the state’s regulatory process.  The administrative agency charged with enacting regulations governing the implementation of the law is, not surprisingly, the Colorado Department of Revenue.  This is not a typographical error and the writer is not under the influence of any hallucinogenic substance.  The state’s tax authorities are responsible for issuing regulations governing the law’s implementation.

The Department of Revenue is responsible for promulgating regulations that establish the following:

  • (a)    Procedures for the issuance, renewal, suspension and revocation of operating licenses for marijuana establishments;
  • (b)   A schedule of application, licensing and renewal fees;
  • (c)    Qualifications for the licensing that are directly related to the operation of a marijuana establishment;
  • (d)   Security requirements for marijuana establishments;
  • (e)    Requirements for the prevention, sale or diversion or marijuana and marijuana products to persons under 21 years of age;
  • (f)    Labeling requirements for marijuana and marijuana products sold or distributed by a marijuana establishment;
  • (g)   Health and safety regulations and standards for the manufacture of marijuana products and the cultivation of marijuana;
  • (h)   Restrictions on the advertising and display of marijuana and marijuana products; and
  • (i)     Civil penalties for the failure to comply with the regulations.

It is also worth noting that this bureaucratic party does not end with the Department of Revenue.  According to Colorado Constitution Article 18, Section 16(5)(d), the Colorado general assembly is responsible for enacting an excise tax to be levied upon the marijuana and each locality is required to enact a host of ordinances further regulating the licensing of marijuana establishments operating within their municipal jurisdiction.  This is a clear-cut recipe for inconsistency among the multiple municipalities.

 

Federal Law

The Controlled Substances Act contains a complex array of violations and penalties that depend on a variety of factors including amounts and specific ingredients of certain substances.  However, the critical point to understand is contained in the first paragraph.  Subchapter (a) states as follows:

…it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally (1) to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance…

dea legal marijuana

The DEA and other federal agencies have been told to stand down in Colorado. http://www.svet.rs/

There are five categories of “controlled substances.” The category in which a particular substance is listed is based on a variety of factors.  However, as a general rule, Schedule I contains the substances that are considered the most dangerous and Schedule V contains the substances that are considered the least dangerous.

Related Article: Team Red = Team Blue

With a Schedule I controlled substance there is (A) a high potential for abuse; (B) no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and (C) a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.  It is beyond dispute that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance has more than a few highly credible critics.  Nevertheless, this is the current state of the law.  By comparison, with a Schedule V controlled substance there is (A) a low potential for abuse; (B) accepted medical use in the United States; and (C) a limited potential for physical or psychological dependence arising from abuse of the substance.  Schedules II, III and IV each fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

The classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance has been a fiercely debated topic for decades by scholars in a host of disciplines.  However, the wisdom of this classification is beyond the scope of this article.  The point is that this is the current state of the law.

 

The Constitution and Federal Courts 

It hardly takes a constitutional scholar to understand that the Supremacy Clause does not receive the copious amount of attention that is regularly bestowed upon its much sexier cousins.  Endless debate seems to follow just about every Supreme Court decision involving the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion and assembly; freedom of the press).  It does not produce the rancorous arguments that inevitably result from the Court’s decisions under the Second Amendment, which grants the right to bear arms, or the Fourth Amendment, which protects the populous from unreasonable searches and seizures (warrantless searches).  The Supremacy Clause certainly does not produce the emotional drama that ensues from death penalty rulings under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.  This list could go on for several pages, but you get the idea.

Related Article: Private Prison Sues State for Not Having Enough Prisoners

While the Supremacy Clause is not surrounded by an aura of excitement like these other constitutional provisions, it is certainly no less important.  The Supreme Court rulings striking down state laws under the Supremacy Clause date back to the late 1700’s. While there have been varying degrees of controversy surrounding the Supremacy Clause since the Constitutional Convention that took place in Philadelphia in 1787, Supreme Court decisions have been remarkably consistent over the past 227 years, at least in comparison to some of the other provisions.

obama legal cannabis

President Obama smoking marijuana in his early years. http://www.popularresistance.org/

The clash of state and federal laws involving the legalization of marijuana is not a new phenomenon and has come before the federal government on many occasions.  In a case involving California’s “Compassionate Use Act,” which resulted from Proposition 215 in 1996 (United States v. Cannabis Cultivators Club), a federal court in that state addressed the issue head on.[3]  In essence, the “Compassionate Use Act” made it legal for seriously ill patients and their primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for use by the seriously ill patient if recommended by the patient’s physician.  This California law precluded prosecution of either the patient or the caregiver.  The marijuana was supplied by medical cannabis dispensaries.  In this case, the defendants operated such dispensaries.

The federal government brought a number of lawsuits against the cannabis dispensaries on the grounds that the dispensaries manufactured and distributed marijuana and possessed the drug with the intent to manufacture and distribute in violation of the Controlled Substance Act.  The court reiterated the provision of the Supremacy Clause, articulating the concept that state law must always be preempted when it is not possible to comply with both the state law and the conflicting federal law or where a state law creates an obstacle to carrying out the objectives of the federal law.  After analyzing the defendants’ multiple arguments, the court issued an order precluding the defendants from engaging in the manufacture or distribution of marijuana or the possession of marijuana with the intent to manufacture or distribute the drug in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

Related Article: War on Drugs Farce Continues Unabated

In the end, regardless of how well intentioned a state law legalizing marijuana may be, and regardless of the level of public support the law may garner, the United States Constitution requires that such a law must always be preempted.

There are many other cases that have been decided by courts across the country.  However, the main point is always the same.  These laws simply will not hold up under our current system of government.

 

Analysis

At first glance it might appear perfectly reasonable, even desirable, that Colorado and Washington have enacted laws legalizing recreational marijuana production and use by adults, albeit within certain limitations.  After all, in the Colorado case, a referendum was held and a majority of the state’s voters (53% in favor and 47% opposed)approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the legalization of marijuana.  The state legislators and governor acted at the direction of the majority and the result, according to conventional wisdom, was a resounding victory for the democratic process.  But is it really desirable to enact laws simply because they contain certain provisions that have popular support?  When the issue is viewed through a slightly more sophisticated lens, it quickly becomes apparent that this action is replete with hidden dangers that are unrelated to the number of people who will choose to take up or continue the hobby of pot smoking.

Related Article: Portugal Decriminalizes All Drugs; 10 Years Later the Results are Mind Blowing

marijuana laws legal

Talk about confusing… http://www.marijuana.com

Properly regulated and controlled, recreational marijuana production and use may seem to be a good idea, especially in light of the fact that the public apparently wants it.  Let’s analyze this concept from a different perspective by considering another example that is far more extreme.  What would happen if lawmakers in the state of Alabama suddenly decided that it would be desirable to bring back the indisputably repugnant practice of racial segregation.  Let’s also assume that this outlandish initiative somehow found its way onto the ballot[4] and a majority of the state’s voters supported it.  Should the Alabama legislature enact such a patently offensive law?[5]  Should the governor sign the law?  In the event that any state attempted such a maneuver, it would clearly violate a host of federal civil rights laws that clearly preclude such dehumanizing practices.  Such a law would certainly be struck down on a multitude of statutory and constitutional grounds (including the Supremacy Clause).  While this is, undeniably, an outrageous example, it makes the same point.  Just because a majority of the populace may be clamoring for something does not mean that the public’s desire must become law.

On the surface, these two examples of Supremacy Clause violations (marijuana in Colorado and racial segregation in Alabama) appear to be totally dissimilar.  A common retort to this type of example that is frequently heard from marijuana enthusiasts goes something like; “You can’t compare these two things.  One is harmless and the other is evil.”  On the surface, that response is certainly reasonable.  But is the underlying concept in these two examples not exactly the same?  Federal law contains a clear prohibition on a specific act, one of which may be harmless and the other undoubtedly evil, yet a particular state or group of states decides that the law should not apply because the voters or lawmakers want something different.

Related Article: Fed Allows Cannabis Legalization, Police Unhappy

Would the situation really be different if Colorado’s voters decided to legalize recreational use of cocaine?  What about heroine?  Regardless of the example, the point is the same.  It is not up to any single state or group of states to defy a federal law.  Rather, it is the responsibility of the United States Congress and the President to follow the established legislative process that has been in place for well over two centuries.  In the absence of such action by Congress and the President, it is the responsibility of the executive branch of government to enforce the federal law and the responsibility of the courts to strike down any law that is unconstitutional.

 

The Department of Justice Joins the Party

In a move that can only be described as inexplicable, the DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs issued a press release on August 29, 2013 entitled; “Justice Department Announces Update to Marijuana Enforcement Policy.”  In its convoluted and disjointed (pun intended) press release, the DOJ reiterated its position that

marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act,

and that,

federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce this statute.  In the same press release it was noted that in states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana, the DOJ “expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department’s guidance.

eric holder legal marijuana

Eric Holder in front of a substance he seems very confused by. http://cdn.theweedblog.com/

Next, in a maneuver that could only be accomplished by a schizophrenic federal bureaucracy, after summarizing how these two states have allowed federal law to be willfully violated, the DOJ (in the same press release) informed the governors of the two states that “it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time.”  Allow me to translate this incomprehensible and irrational legal jargon into plain English: the United States Department of Justice, the most important federal law enforcement entity in the country, has announced that, for all intents and purposes, it plans to ignore this matter.

Related Article: Department of Justice Aided Anti-Zimmerman Rallies

Whether or not one agrees with the legalization of recreational marijuana use or not is beside the point.  No one individual, even the Attorney General of the United States, should be able to unilaterally determine which laws will be enforced and which laws will not be enforced.  Obviously, a certain amount of judgment and discretion will always be required in this arena.  Not every immaterial violation of every law can possibly be enforced.  But a public pronouncement that a major provision of a significant law such as the Controlled Substances Act will not be enforced is unprecedented.  It is not an exaggeration to think that such a blatantly defiant move by one of the most senior officials in the executive branch has the potential to shake the very foundation of our system of government.  One can now only wonder what other federal statutes are in jeopardy of becoming irrelevant at the whim of the attorney general.

There is another major dilemma that is likely to flow from the actions of President Obama’s DOJ.  It is highly likely that the next President of the United States, whether Democrat or Republican, will appoint a new attorney general to head the DOJ.  Suppose that person changes course and directs the federal law enforcement apparatus to aggressively prosecute those who have just been given a “green light” to produce, distribute and use marijuana.  What message does that send to a citizenry that will be justifiably confused and angered?  The most likely result would be chaos.  One administration assures the marijuana industry that it can proceed without fear of the heavy hand of government initiating criminal prosecution and the next administration reverses course.  The resulting confusion would be unimaginable.

 

Conclusion

Colorado, Washington and the federal government are playing a very dangerous game in which marijuana producers and users are likely to be the losers.  If Congress does not modify the Controlled Substances Act (which does not appear likely in the foreseeable future) so that a direct conflict with the various state laws is averted, then these laws will not withstand a constitutional challenge and will be struck down.

Regardless of one’s views on the issue of marijuana (harmless substance, dangerous drug or something in between), these laws cannot withstand Constitutional scrutiny and will, in all likelihood, not survive.  The euphoria of the segment of the population that has been rejoicing since November 6, 2012 will come to an abrupt end.  That is the result that is mandated by our Constitutional framework.  The only remaining question is this: After all of the legal gyrations, will anything positive have been accomplished?  The answer to this question will unfold in the coming years.  In the meantime, it appears that marijuana users from Denver to Seattle will continue to enjoy that “Rocky Mountain High!”

pot smoker colorado smile

That Rocky Mountain High puts a smile on many faces! http://www.denverpost.com

 


[1] This article focuses on the Colorado law since that state appears to be getting the vast majority of media attention.  Moreover, an in-depth analysis of both laws (Colorado and Washington) would be duplicative and unnecessarily tedious.

[2] The Administration’s opposition to strict enforcement of federal drug laws is well documented.  Nevertheless, an analysis of the reasons for the DOJ’s position is beyond the scope of this article.

[3] In United States v. Cannabis Cultivator’s Club, 5 F.Supp2d 1086 (N.D. California 1998), the court addressed the direct conflict between the state’s Compassionate Use Act and the federal Controlled Substances Act.

[4]  Most laws are passed by state legislatures and signed by the governor.  Few laws actually result from a referendum approved by voters, but this example is designed to model the Colorado situation.

[5] While such a scenario may seem far-fetched to younger readers, it was only 51 years ago that George Wallace defiantly made the following statement in his inaugural speech on January 14, 1963; “…I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

 

Sources:

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_5418736

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/07/us-usa-marijuana-legalization-idUSBRE8A602D20121107

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/August/13-opa-974.html#maincontent

http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/3/199/case.html

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-151.ZO.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/07/us-usa-marijuana-legalization-idUSBRE8A602D20121107

Ingredient in Pot Decreases the High: THC, Pot Shops and Lobbyists

pot shop names

Growing pot takes as much creativity as naming the crop. kwgn.com

Excitement about New Years is still in the air, and in Colorado, so is a colossal amount of pot. New Years Day marked the opening of some 37 pot shops licensed to sell cannabis recreationally to people 21 and older. The first person ever to buy pot recreationally was an Iraq war veteran, and boy did he look happy about his big bag of legal herb. He, along with the other marijuana enthusiasts, are responsible for $1 million in sales on the first day.

pot first buyer

I guarantee his 15 minutes of fame was celebrated by getting legally high. rt.com

People are smoking so much that less than a week after New Years, the supply is already running out. Pot shortages are widespread despite the fact that recreational marijuana prices are more than double the price of medical marijuana prices, sometimes costing more than $400 per ounce before tax. Luckily for everyone’s stress levels, that price is projected to settle closer to $185 per ounce within the next few years.

With so much pot being smoked, everyday Colorodans, stoners and weekend warriors alike are sure to find the results of a recent study very interesting.  Researchers have recently discovered that consumption of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis that gets people high, boosts the production of a substance produced in the brain called pregnenolone. Pregnenolone inhibits cannabinoid receptors in the body from being activated by THC, creating a negative feedback loop: The more pot someone smokes, the more pregnenolone is produced, the less effective THC is, the more pot a person smokes. I suppose it wouldn’t be a stretch to tell a cop, “sorry officer, I was just smoking to sober up.”

Related Article: Smoking Pot Without Getting Higgh: But Why?

pot marijuana pregnenolone

Here’s a mug shot of the brain’s buzzkill. http://www.marijuana.com

The researchers believe this study may present an effective approach for treating people who have a harmful psychological dependence on pot. Administering pregnenolone, or encouraging pregnolone synthesis through some other means besides cannabis consumption may be the answer that pot ‘over-enthusiasts’ have been looking for. With up to 4.5 million Americans harmfully dependent (defined as having “difficulty controlling their drug use and cannot stop even though it interferes with many aspects of their lives.”), this is wonderful news to a great number of people.

So, should we start taking bets on whether this study will cause pot smokers to think twice before they roll that second joint? Seems like a risky bet since nothing appears to be stopping the insatiable hunger in Americans to take back their great national heritage. That won’t stop the DOJ from trying though.

The DOJ, under direction from President Obama, announced in August, 2013 that they would not interfere with the legalization of cannabis in Colorado. They assured Colorodans they would take a “trust but verify approach.” Apparently the DOJ’s idea of “trust but verify” comes in the form of raids and imprisonment.

Related Article: War on Drugs Farce Continues Unabated

About six weeks ago extensive raids on medical marijuana shops and growers took place in Denver.  Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Denver, told the Denver Post that,

No arrests were made in the raids, the raids were being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service criminal investigations unit, the Denver Police Department and state and local law enforcement.

More than 12 Denver metro area marijuana facilities and two homes were raided in total. What’s worse is that these locations were strictly medical marijuana dispensaries whose sole business is providing millions of Americans with a safe, effective, non-addictive, minimal side-effect involved cancer cure.

pot marijuana dea colorado raid

So glad police are saving the day from such dangerous criminals. nevergetbusted.com

The raids in Denver have a powerful backing and voice in Washington. It comes in the form of billions of dollars in lobbying from countless industries. From the companies’ perspective I’d be afraid of pot legalization too seeing as how much people love their favorite weed. A recent survey administered to 404 medical marijuana patients in Canada revealed that,

Over 41% state that they use cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 36.1% use cannabis as a substitute for illicit substances, and 67.8% use cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs.

What a coincidence, the same companies that spend billions of dollars on lobbying against legalization happen to be the ones that would be hurt most by legalization. Theoretically, the lobbying shouldn’t make a difference anyway since nearly 2/3 of Americans believe that the government should keep its snout out of state marijuana laws.

Related Article: The Senate Is Useless and Should Be Dismanteled

Will our representatives ever listen to the will of the people again? Will the current, belligerent congressional activity continue for good? The Fed will have to make a move soon with states legalizing medical marijuana so often. New York is preparing to become the 21st state to legalize medical marijuana.

 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/01/sean-azzariti-marijuana-colorado_n_4519539.html

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/04/us/colorado-marijuana-legalization-store/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/03/pot-sales_n_4536780.html

http://business.time.com/2014/01/04/colorados-pot-shops-say-theyll-be-sold-out-any-day-now/

http://www.examiner.com/article/colorado-marijuana-prices-and-use-soar-people-are-unabashedly-getting-blitzed

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6166/94

http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/marijuana-addictive

https://wondergressive.com/the-history-and-legality-of-cannabis-use/

https://wondergressive.com/fed-allows-cannabis-legalization-police-unhappy/

http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24570937/feds-involved-enforcement-actions-at-denver-area-marijuana

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/21/colorado-pot-raid_n_4317815.html

http://www.gallup.com/poll/159152/americans-federal-gov-state-marijuana-laws.aspx

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/05/us/new-york-medical-marijuana/

http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/16066359.2012.733465

 

Politicians Go Pop: The Rise of Pop Politics

pop politics

Oh, pop politics is so avant-garde! http://www.smithsonianmag.com

Our nation is moving toward a phenomenon we can understand as “pop politics”. We are seeing our political culture and our popular culture merge in ways it never has before, resulting in new and problematic attitudes regarding important issues faced by our country.

During the 2013 People’s Choice Awards, host Kaley Cuocco announced to viewers that 475 million people participated in voting for the show’s award winners. That is 3 times more than the amount of people who voted in the 2012 presidential election. Cuocco went on to say that according to a loophole in the Electoral College, our new president should be Taylor Swift. Although no such loophole exists, what does exist is our country’s growing need to be entertained, even when facing issues that we wouldn’t normally perceive as needing to have an “entertainment value”. The tidal wave of pop politics has reached our shores.

Related Article: An End to the Electoral College

pop politics

Those moobs are hypnotizing… http://www.visualnews.com

Although we may ‘never ever ever’ seriously consider a ‘Swift 2016” presidential campaign, the idea of pop-culture icons having a place in the political world is nothing new.  What is new, however, is the amount of pop-culture we are continually saturated with, and how this saturation is affecting the way we relate to political and social issues.

According to Nielson Ratings, the first presidential debate between President Barrack Obama and republican challenger Mitt Romney drew in 67.2 million viewers, the most viewers for the first of the three debates since 1980.

Who would have thought that Romney’s attack on Big Bird and Obama’s nap could make for such riveting T.V.? But pop politics strikes again, and that’s what we remember, and that’s what viewers unconsciously tune in to see. The slips ups, the mishaps, we watch the debates and discuss them with the same “omg tone” that we use when discussing the latest elimination on American Idol.

Consequently, due to pop politics, the line between what is important and what we keep in our lives for entertainment value has become increasingly distorted. This distortion is problematic as pop politics becomes more important than regular politics.

Related Article: Team Red=Team Blue, the Syria Episode

According to a Pew Center for the People and Press study published in September 2012, those in the 18-to-29 age demographic are the biggest consumers of satire and entertainment, but score the lowest for consumption of news and factual information. Our pop-culture has always had fun at the expense of politics, but due to the new and overly pervasive nature of our popular culture, our country faces a crisis of changing priorities.

pop politics

No one. abcnews.go.com

A change in priorities to the tune of pop politics doesn’t have to be a bad thing though. For example, when my favorite reality show comes on, I always make sure I stop whatever I’m doing so I can watch it. My favorite reality TV show is the presidential debates. I loved the part during the last episode when Romney talked about having binders full of women, but I think my favorite part was when Obama got all aggressive and told Candy Crawly to check the transcript. If the evening’s twitter feed was any indication, my favorite parts were pretty much the same as everyone else’s favorite parts. Seemingly, pop politics affords an incentive for staying up to date with politics.

However, while all of the commentary was entertaining, did anyone remember what they actually debated? This is part of what contributes to our larger issue. This new pop politics method of political participation runs the risk of causing us to base our vote not on what really matters, but on the superficial aspects of each candidate that our popular culture encourages us to focus on.

During an October 2012 broadcast on National Public Radio, author and television critic Bob Mondello argued that,

We have spent the last decade training the public to watch contests on television and then vote.  American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, they all start with a field of candidates who compete against each other and then the TV audience determines who’s won.

The debates are set up similarly to reality competition shows. In both situations we are encouraged to watch for the purpose of reacting, but in only one situation does our reaction have the power to impact our paychecks, jobs, and personal liberties. The debates have always been set up this way, but only in the last 15 years have we experienced this onslaught of competition reality television.

Related Article: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan Are the World’s Biggest Liars: Fact

Now, we talk about debate performance, but not the issues debated on, and performance is what our culture has been conditioned to remember. Were they smiling or smirking? On a scale of Paul Ryan to Marco Rubio, how much water did each of them drink? Why do we care? As Mondello goes on to state,

We’ve left serious political discourse and entered White House Idol territory.

pop politics

America’s most cherished educators. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com

Could it be that pop politics has left our minds warped? Now all of this isn’t to say that satire and social media are negative additions to society’s political conversation.  In a 2009 survey conducted by the USC Annenburg School of Communication and Journalism,

Those individuals who got their news from sources like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report were actually the most informed individuals in the survey.

This makes sense because the jokes in these shows aren’t funny if you don’t know what they’re talking about. While shows based on satire shouldn’t be the only tool we use for information, they are a great stepping stone to get the public engaged in issues that really matter.  Thanks to technology, we have many avenues of information available to us, but we need to make sure we are choosing the source of the information wisely, and not solely based on the pop politics trap.

If you get your news mostly from conservative or liberal centered news sources, why not change the channel or open another internet window and check out what a news source from the other side has to say? Better yet, read anything and everything you can get your hands on for a more well-rounded view on the issues.

pop politics

A natural born leader. malialitman.wordpress.com

In addition, we need to remain cognizant of the line between the things we say to poke fun at candidates, and the comments the candidates actually make. For example, Tina Fey’s impersonation of 2008 vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, made quips like, “I can see Russia from my house” part of the cultural lexicon. Unfortunately, many Americans actually believed that Sarah Palin had said those words.

Related Article: TVs, Brains, and Zombies Oh My: TV’s Effect on the Mind

As in the case of Tina Fey and Sarah Palin, we may misunderstand information that has the power to change our entire perception of the candidate. We need to pay attention to what the candidates actually say and believe, and then we can listen to all the satire we want without fear of being misinformed. We will be able to embrace “pop politics” and make our new cultural reality something that works for us, not against us.

As we reflect back on the role pop-culture plays in our political consciousness, here is one last thing to consider. A January 4th 2013 petition posted on the official white house website is calling for the Obama Administration to authorize a recurring C-SPAN reality show featuring Vice President Joe Biden and his interactions with elected officials, foreign dignitaries, and everyday American families.  Personally, I think this all sounds like a bunch of malarkey, but it certainly proves that the relationship between politics and popular culture has reached a new level. As the 2016 election season approaches and political parties consider who they want to represent them, the best choice to me seems pretty clear: vote Biden/Swift 2016.

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaley_Cuoco

http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/peoples-choice-awards-2013-the-hunger-games-victorious-with-five-awards/

http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/newswire/2012/first-presidential-debate-draws-67-2-million-viewers.html

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/presidential-debate-drew-more-than-70-million-viewers/?smid=tw-share&_r=0

http://responsibility-project.libertymutual.com/articles/mixing-pop-culture-and-politics

http://www.people-press.org/2007/04/15/public-knowledge-of-current-affairs-little-changed-by-news-and-information-revolutions/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdDqSvJ6aHc

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/04/joe-biden-reality-show-petition_n_2411185.html

More Green Energy: Climate Denial Funders Caught Red Handed

Climate denial kills polar bears

Some men just like to watch the climate burn, it’s called climate denial… mediamatters.org

I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news first. Dr. Robert J. Brulle, professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, conducted a study which exposes the syndication and massive funding of the climate denial movement. This study is the first peer reviewed analysis ever conducted on the climate denial funders.

 

The Bad News

Brulle expected many well known conservative groups to be heading the mast of the climate denial ship, but he claims to have found some very unexpected sources as well. 75% of the funding turned out to be from concealed sources.

Their money fuels the voluntary ignorance van. Are you on board? ingienous.com

Their money fuels the voluntary ignorance van. Are you on board? ingienous.com

Brulle calls the money from these particular sources “dark money.” He notes that,

Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, two of the largest supporters of climate science denial, have recently pulled back from publicly funding countermovement organizations. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to countermovement organizations through third party pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funders cannot be traced, has risen dramatically.

The big names are starting to close the veils on us onlookers. Their climate denial agendas demand privacy!

Related Article: Only 90 Companies Responsible for Climate Change Since Industrial Revolution

The amount of money that climate denial groups receive in funding each year is close to $600 million. The climate denial movement represents a collective of corporations, organizations, and politicians actively hampering and blocking the U.S. government’s ability to pass laws to lower emissions.  The movement also supports and actively campaigns to destroy America’s faith in globally reviewed and accepted climate science.

A single movement isn’t something to make such a big deal out of, but this movement has a free multi-million dollar lifeline, media outlets to use as megaphones, and the backing of people in positions of enormous power. As Brulle poignantly explains,

The real issue here is one of democracy. Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible. Money amplifies certain voices above others…Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat. At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.

The livelihood of the entire planet and countless generations depend on the decisions we make in the next 20 years regarding our planet and the sustainability of our lifestyles. Climate denial is dangerous, but still going strong.

 

The Good News (kind of)

Climate denial continues

I’m not a fan of any mainstream party, but come on! You don’t believe in science? en.paperblog.com

Now for the good news. For the entire month of November all additional electricity-generating capacity added to the U.S. was from renewable sources. That’s 394 megawatts of green electrical energy added to the country’s generating capacity. Despite all of America’s climate denial, but the news gets better. In October more than 99% of the energy capacity added was also renewable. This is remarkable news, until we broaden our view a bit. (It was slightly good news at least.)

35.5% of the electricity-generating capacity added from January to November 2013 was from renewable sources. During the same period in 2012 50% of the added capacity was from renewable energy sources. That is a 30% drop from 2012 to 2013, mostly due to a colossal 86% reduction in wind power production. 

Despite the oft-spoken of advantages of renewable energy, the majority of the new energy capacity in the U.S. produced in the last two years was from non-renewable sources. In light of the endless research regarding humanity’s role in climate change, climate denial is not so much worrying as it is alarming.

Related Article:  Fracking Worse Than You Think: Delusional America and Special Interest Gangs

Oh the humanity! newenergynews.blogspot.com

Oh the humanity! newenergynews.blogspot.com

In 2012 only 13.2% of the country’s energy consumption came from renewable sources. Currently only 16% of the total energy capacity in the U.S. comes from renewable sources, which makes it frustrating and strange that the country continues to expand its energy capacity with 65% non-renewable sources. To make matters worse, fossil fuel companies across the globe received $544 billion in subsidies in 2012, almost 7 times as much as renewables received the same year.

A recent study examined the cumulative amount of energy subsidies in the U.S. from 1918 to 2010.  They found that historically, and to this day, the U.S. just blatantly does not care that it is spewing pollutants into everyone’s atmosphere and climate denial flourishes. The U.S. is second only to China in CO2 emissions.  The difference between the energy policy of the U.S. and China is that China is currently leading the world in green energy investments.  According to Chinese officials, the country invested $294 billion dollars into renewable energy over the last 5 years in an attempt to battle climate change. The U.S. doesn’t even come close.

From 1918 to 2010, the U.S. spent a total of $670.61 billion dollars in the form of energy subsidies.

  • $446.96 billion to oil and gas
  • $185.38 billion to nuclear
  • $32.34 billion to biofuels
  • $5.93 billion to renewables

Now, to be fair, oil and gas has existed substantially longer than any of the sectors listed above. So, let’s take a look at a comparison of what each sector received in the fist 30 years of their respective lives.

A good ol' rigged game. http://www.dblinvestors.com/

A good ol’ rigged game. http://www.dblinvestors.com/

Renewable energy has been, and continues to be hampered, even at the federal level. Keep in mind that many companies, including Exxon-Mobil, spend a great deal of money on the climate denial movement, yet receive substantial subsidies via the taxpayers’ collective wallet.

Related Article: New Greenhouse Gas Discovered: 7,100 Times Worse Than Carbon Dioxide

Unlike the 67 countries with renewable energy targets, the U.S. has no federal renewable energy targets whatsoever. Some examples of the energy targets I am referring to are:

  • European Union: 20% renewable energy usage by 2020
  • China: 15% by 2020
  • Australia: 20% by 2020
  • Canada: 90% by 2020
  • Germany: 35% by 2020, 80% by 2050
climate denial

Seems legit. climatedenial.org

While no federal targets exist, many state targets and incentives do. Thirty U.S. States currently have some type of renewable energy mandate and six other states have a renewable energy goal.  Unfortunately, only half of those states are on track to meet their goal.

As usual, what you can do to alter the destructive path of the U.S. is to make sure to do research thoroughly and vote appropriately. Even more importantly, “be the change you want to see in the world.”  Observe your behavior and activities. Don’t get caught up in all the hype that is climate denial. Ask yourself how you are affecting your surroundings. Be honest.  Just ensure the answer you give yourself is grounded in the aforementioned thorough research you have done. Don’t join the climate denial movement.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases/archive/2013/December/Climate-Change/

http://e360.yale.edu/digest/renewable_energy_comprised_total_us_november_power_generation_gains/4032/

http://e360.yale.edu/digest/renewable_energy_comprised_total_us_november_power_generation_gains/4032/

http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/nov-energy-infrastructure.pdf

http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/oct-energy-infrastructure.pdf

http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energysubsidies/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-30/china-s-spending-on-renewable-energy-may-total-1-8-trillion-yuan.html

http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_1

http://www.dsireusa.org/http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable-mandates/

https://wondergressive.com/news/90-companies-responsible-climate-change/

https://wondergressive.com/news/fracking-worse-than-you-think-delusional-america-and-special-interest-gangs/

https://wondergressive.com/news/new-greenhouse-gas-discovered-7100-times-worse-carbon-dioxide/

Climate denial is bad mmm’kay?

The Root of All Evil: Quality Vs. Quantity in America

We have a number problems in this country:  the national debt,the quantity of jobs available, the rocky relationship between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, all of which deserve our undivided focus and attention.  There is another problem we face, one that comes close to equaling Rob and Kristen’s emotional rollercoaster. It is a problem that contributes to our social and economic conditions. Our society faces the problem of trying to find the delicate balance between the lack of quality and the excess of quantity that is found in multiple aspects of our culture. Simply put, Americans want more. And they want it to levels of excess that have become problematic and detrimental.

Today, we’ll first look at the causes behind our society’s issues with quality as it relates to quantity. Next, we’ll examine the effects of this epidemic, and finally, we’ll pin-point some solutions that will allow us to balance our growing need for more, with what we actually need, so that we can tip the scales in our favor.

quantity

Need money, feed me! hateandanger.wordpress.com

Tipping the scales back towards center may not be as easy as it seems. We are fighting against more than balancing our needs and wants; we are fighting against a way of thinking that has dominated our social understanding of quality versus quantity. In the 1987 movie Wallstreet, corrupt businessman Gordon Gekko tells us that,

Greed is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

Unfortunately, what Mr. Gekko says is true. Greed is now what drives our wants and desires, and what pushes us to obtain what we want at any cost. We have entered a time where people pay less attention to what you have, and more attention to how much of it you have. We are blinded by the quantity of the things we own, rather than the quality of our possessions and our lives. According to physicist and computer scientist Carlos Roca in his article “Social Cohesion in a Society of Greedy, Mobile Individuals,” published in the Journal of the National Academy of Sciences,

Human wellbeing in modern societies relies on social cohesion, which can be characterized by high levels of cooperation and a large number of social ties. Both features, however, are frequently challenged by individual self-interest.  The stability of social and economic systems can suddenly break down as the recent financial crisis illustrates.

quantity

Very, very dependable. http://bostonoccupier.com/

What this means is that our individual interests are actually breaking down our social structure.  Our “me-first” attitude is what directly affects our need for quantity, instead of quality. If we are focused on getting as much as we can, as fast as we can, the quality of what we consume is going to be compromised.

There are many aspects of our society that have been affected by our focus on quantity at the expense of quality. In the business and entertainment sectors, we’ve seen politicians sent to jail for crimes motivated by greed, and celebrities and artists produce material that is at best of questionable quality. One need look no further than politicians like disgraced Illinois senator Rod Blagoivich, or companies like Johnson and Johnson, which in 2007 reported illegal activity to the government such as bribing government-paid doctors and health officials to promote sales of medical devices in Greece, Poland and Romania. According to Robert Khuzami, director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s division of enforcement,

For years, the company tried to hide its illegal activities by using sham contracts and off-shore companies to cover its tracks. The Johnson & Johnson’s bribes might have harmed public health in several European countries.

The scariest effect of this mentality is the disregard for the public’s well-being. This side-effect manifests itself in the actions of companies like Johnson and Johnson, but also in what we are exposed to in our everyday lives.

quantity

OMG let’s go to the mall! http://www.ourbreathingplanet.com

Our country’s obesity rate, for example, is a calling card of society’s issue with quantity.  A 2012 report published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that by 2030, 42 percent of U.S. adults will be obese, adding $550 billion in obesity-related medical expenses to healthcare costs over that period, unless Americans change their ways.  Our need for more money, more food, and more recognition is literally making us sick. If we don’t work to correct the imbalance between how much of everything we want, versus how much of it we need, we will find ourselves with a lot of stuff, but without the most important things we have – our physical and emotional health.

Back in 1997, Rapper The Notorious B.I.G. told us that,

The more money we come across, the more problems we see.

Fifteen years later, his words, like the rapper, have started to take on an even larger meaning.  When it comes to getting our B.I.G. quantity issues under control, we need to change rappers. And by that I mean, change the rap lyrics our country has come to identify with. The iconic group Outkast tells us,

Don’t act impatiently.  You’ll get where you need to be, in due time.

What this means is that we need to be patient and work for good things in our lives, instead of accepting the many mediocre things that come our way.  Anthony Levine, CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and author of Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference, argues we need to approach solving our attitudes towards the need for excessive quantity from an economic angle. He says that,

When the market’s crashed in 2008, I think people realized just how much we need community. Not only did out of control money put us in a bad situation, but we realized that we can’t rely 100% on 401ks and the market to take care of us.  Trying to make so much money so that you don’t need anyone is a ridiculous and lonely pursuit. We need to view our financial returns alongside the society we’re building. It keeps us connected.

quantity

Please sir, may I have some more? rashidaanurse.blogspot.com

As Mr. Levine says, we need to make sure we are focusing on what’s good for our society, not just what is good for us as individuals. We need to remember that greed only leads to excess, which does not translate into having items of quality in our lives, and also, a quality society. The only thing greed leads to is a huge quantity of stuff.

As the saying goes, the best things in life are worth waiting for. And that is what we need to keep in mind when we evaluate what we have in our lives. You may desire more in terms of your financial, social, or personal gains, but that isn’t the answer. The answer is to appreciate the quality of what you have and know that quantity never equals quality.

So, while we still have issues such as our nation’s debt and the job crisis, perhaps these words will reach the ears of the people who hold the fate of our country’s happiness and health in their hands, and it will teach them to love and be grateful for what they have.  Here’s looking at you, Kristen and Rob.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094291/

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/06/21/1101044108.abstract

http://star.worldbank.org/corruption-cases/node/20060

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Blagojevich

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/business/09drug.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/18/us-obesity-us-idUSBRE88H0RA20120918

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZ4tNmnuMgQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg-0843U7zM

http://www.forbes.com/sites/elmirabayrasli/2011/09/06/greed-has-gone-good-social-capital-markets-2011/

Private Prison Sues State for Not Having Enough Prisoners

A private prison in Arizona recently sued the state for having a lack of prisoners. For the sake of saving over $16 million in back pay, the state settled by paying the private prison $3 million.  Arizona essentially payed a company $3 million because not enough people are committing crimes.

To be fair, it’s a bit more complex than that. In July, 2010 three violent inmates escaped from an Arizona private prison, which prompted officials to stop sending new inmates to the facility. I say good job to the officials for demanding better performance from Management & Training Corp., the company that runs the prison. Unfortunately, a line in the company’s contract with the state guarantees that the prison is at least 97% full at all times.  They sued on grounds that the breach of contract caused a dramatic loss in revenue.

Surprisingly, this type of contractual agreement is the norm. A review from In the Public Interest revealed that out of 60 analyzed contracts between state/local governments and private prisons, 65% contained language mentioning prisoner quotas. This means that state officials have absolutely guaranteed private prisons a profit. And who finances that guarantee? The taxpayers, of course! 

The prison bed guarantees range between minimums of 70 percent occupancy in a California prison to 100 percent occupancy requirements at some Arizona prisons. Most of the contracts had language mandating that at least 90 percent of prison beds be filled.

Did you catch that? Some private prisons are guaranteed 100% occupancy, and if they don’t get 100% of the beds filled they still receive a grand payday via our collective paychecks.

Related Article: Brazilian Prisoners Read Their Way to Freedom

In an interview in 2010, former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard pointed out a crucial issue regarding private prisons, saying

I believe a big part of our problem is that the very violent inmates, like the three that escaped, ended up getting reclassified [as a lower risk] quickly and sent to private prisons that were just not up to the job.

This is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous behavior, especially since many private prisons are under-equipped and poorly run.  They contain

inadequate patrols and prisoner movement, excessive false alarms, a lax culture, and inconsistencies in visitor screening procedures.

According to Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer and criminal justice expert at the University of Texas School of Public Affairs,

It’s really shortsighted public policy to do anything that ties the hands of the state. If there are these incentives to keep the private prisons full, then it is reducing the likelihood that states will adopt strategies to reduce prison costs by keeping more people out. When the beds are there, you don’t want to leave them empty.

Related Article: Write a Prisoner

In summation, we are putting unnecessary contractual agreements with a private corporation above the safety and well being of citizens. A 2011 report by the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out that

private prisons are more costly, more violent and less accountable than public prisons, and are actually a major contributor to increased mass incarceration.

This is most apparent in Louisiana, which is the prison capitol of the world and houses a large amount of its prisoners in private prisons.  So, why do we have private prisons anyway?

Why Do We Use Private Prisons?

private prison crowded

Prison is so much fun! Just like a sleepover. http://www.latimes.com/

The initial use of private prisons is directly linked to the utter failure that is the War on Drugs. In 1970 Nixon began, and all subsequent presidents continued, to became intensely serious about the war on drugs and started punishing non-violent, hard working Americans for ingesting substances responsibly and safely. From 1960 to 1980 the number of total arrests nationwide rose by 28% while the number of drug related offenses rose by more than 127%, with the number continuing to rise exponentially.

(Nearly 40% of all federal and state inmates are non-violent drug offenders. Moreover, more than half of all drug-related arrests are entirely cannabis related.)

Related Article: Another Casualty of the Paramilitary State

These dramatic rises in arrests left state and local governments scrambling.  Hiring a private company to handle the hard work was the obvious answer.

With a burgeoning prison population resulting from the “war on drugs” and increased use of incarceration, prison overcrowding and rising costs became increasingly problematic for local, state, and federal governments. In response to this expanding criminal justice system, private business interests saw an opportunity for expansion, and consequently, private-sector involvement in prisons moved from the simple contracting of services to contracting for the complete management and operation of entire prisons.

The first time a private company was given the job of warden was in 1984, in Hamilton County, Tennessee.

private prison board member

Makes sense… predatorhaven.blogspot.com

It is clear that the mere presence of private prisons has severely hampered any type of progress in reducing the amount of people behind bars. This should be a top priority for the country, since the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the entire world, with more than 1% of the entire population currently behind bars, and an additional 2% of the population on supervision, probation, or parole. That accounts for about 3% of the US population under correctional supervision.

Related Article: Cannabis Cures Cancer and More

By a large margin, the US has the largest percentage of prisoners based on population in the world. The International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College in London lists some startling statistics:

More than 9.8 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, mostly as pre-trial detainees (remand prisoners) or as sentenced prisoners. Almost half of these are in the United States (2.29m), Russia (0.89m) or China (1.57m sentenced prisoners).

This level of imprisonment is a staggering waste of financial resources.

Taxpayers spent about $68.7 billion in 2008 to feed, clothe, and provide medical care to prisoners in county jails, state and federal prisons and facilities housing legal and illegal aliens facing possible deportation. From 1982 to 2002, state and federal spending on corrections, not adjusted for inflation, rose by 423%, from $40 to $209 per U.S. resident. Corrections spending, as a share of state budgets, rose faster than health care, education, and natural resources spending from 1986 to 2001. The average cost of housing a prisoner for a year was about $24,000 in 2005, though rates vary from state to state.

Related Article: War on Drugs Farce Continues Unabated

That gives us some information on the prison system as a whole, but surely private prisons are saving us money. Not at all. In fact, private prisons and jails are  a total loss of revenue.

… the benefit to counties where private prisons are built and operated can be quite scant — some receive less than $2 per prisoner per day from the private prison operator…the federal government agreed to pay CCA [one of the largest private prison firms] almost $90 per day for each detained immigrant at a San Diego facility.

Today, private companies imprison roughly 130,000 prisoners and, according to one group, 16,000 civil immigration detainees in the United States at any given time. As states send more and more people to prison, they funnel ever greater amounts of taxpayer money to private prison operators. By 2010, annual revenues of the two top private prison companies alone stood at nearly $3 billion.

Private prisons are a total loss of revenue, profit from crime while encouraging higher incarceration rates, have no incentive to rehabilitate or reform prisoners, and have no responsibility to the well being of the American people. Maybe it’s time to re-think the privatization of prisons and America’s prison-industrial complex as a whole.

private prison number

Yes, you are just a number, a number that begins with ‘$’. http://www.usprisonculture.com

 

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/private-prison-quotas_n_3953483.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/31/arizona-prison-break-murd_n_666311.html

http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/sites/default/files/Criminal%20Lockup%20Quota%20Report.pdf

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/09/20/2658701/private-prison-firms-quotas-cells-coffers/

http://money.cnn.com/2010/08/17/news/economy/private_prisons_economic_impact.fortune/

http://reason.org/files/corrections_annual_privatization_report_2010.pdf

https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/bankingonbondage_20111102.pdf

http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2012/05/louisiana_is_the_worlds_prison.html

http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/sites/default/files/docs/pdf/jailbreaks.pdf

http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_prisonprivatization.pdf

https://wondergressive.com/news/the-history-and-legality-of-cannabis-use/

https://wondergressive.com/news/war-on-drugs-farce-continues-unabated/

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=2767