New Federal Medical Marijuana Policy Fraught with Peril

October 23, 2009

On Monday Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued a memo to federal prosecutors in 14 states regarding the Obama Administration’s position on medical marijuana.  The memo declared that prosecutors “should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”  Ogden’s directions went on to give federal agents the authority to go after those whose marijuana distribution actions go beyond what is allowed by the various state laws.  In essence, the memo gave prosecutors wide discretion in determining which cases to pursue and which to ignore based on their interpretation if any state laws are being broken.  On the surface, this seems like a compassionate gesture towards those suffering pain from maladies like cancer, glaucoma, and spasticity.  However, upon closer inspection, the Administration simply didn’t go nearly far enough and its position is fraught with peril.

First of all, how can there be a law that the government doesn’t enforce.  I realize there are a lot of old outdated laws on the books that governments do not enforce, but federal drug laws are a big deal.  Now, don’t get me wrong I would like to see all substance laws repealed on the grounds that individuals have an absolute right to do to their bodies what they choose as long as it doesn’t violate the rights of others.  Of course, being stoned, driving a car, and hurting another through those actions should still be illegal.  But, if you want to smoke a joint in the privacy of your home it is your natural right to do so.

The problem with the Administration’s new position on medical marijuana is that instead of saying go ahead and break the law and we will look the other way the Justice Department should be petitioning Congress to repeal the law outright.  What law will he decide not to enforce next – immigration laws?  Oops, I forgot he doesn’t already.  After all, isn’t the President nullifying an act of Congress because he is refusing to enforce its law?  This is no different than when states nullify an act of Congress or when juries release defendants because they believe the law the accused is being tried for is unjust or unconstitutional.  In both circumstances Uncle Sam gets snooty and cries fowl.  Why is the President any different?  Perhaps Congress should sue him at the Supreme Court to require him to enforce the law.

It is also concerning that the Administration is giving wide discretion to prosecutors in pursuing cases.  Naturally, some prosecutors are more gung-ho than others when it comes to prosecuting these types of cases.  Thus, equal protection of the law could be violated simply because there is no concrete legal standard involved only the judgment of individual prosecutors.  And besides where is it ordained that federal agents have any role in enforcing state laws?  This is clearly a violation of our institutionalized federal system.  Next thing you know, FBI agents will be given the jurisdiction to issue traffic tickets on the nation’s interstate highway system.  No, federal agents enforcing state laws will lead to a further erosion of state’s rights and bring us that much closer to federal hegemony over all matters. 

Of course, drug laws are not within the realm of the federal government per Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution anyway.  The states retain the right to regulate drugs under the 10th Amendment.  There are state pharmaceutical laws and licensure in all 50 states.  You would think that somebody in the political establishment could come up with a common sense compromise that protects states’ rights yet maintains regulation over medical pot.  Perhaps federal law banning its use could be eliminated and control of the issue totally transferred to the individual states.  The states could then treat pot like they treat codeine and Prozac – as a behind the counter drug dispensed by pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.  After all, like the aforementioned drugs pot does have significant medicinal value.  This approach would ensure that worthy patients receive the medication their doctors prescribe, states would retain their right to regulating drugs, and federal prosecutors could focus their attention where it belongs – on cases like mail fraud and illegal immigration.

At the end of the day there will be no peace on our streets until Washington ends the so called “War on Drugs” completely.  In all fairness to the Administration, with its recent medical marijuana stand it has gone further than any previous administration in at least attempting to curb one abuse of that conflict.  Let’s hope this experiment goes well and as a result Mr. Ogden issues another memo declaring the federal war on drugs over.


Bernanke is between an Overheated Printing Press and a Hard Place

October 17, 2009

Recent actions of the world’s central banks have sent a warning shot across the bow of the ship known as the Federal Reserve.  Since July, 63 percent of all new cash going into foreign central banks have been euros and yen – not U.S. dollars.  The greenbacks share of new cash, 37 percent, is far lower than its 66 percent share of 10 years ago.  According to the International Monetary Fund, dollars currently make up about 62 percent of reserves at central banks.  This is the lowest on record!

Additionally, the story has broken that the Persian Gulf states have met with leaders from China, Russia, Japan, and France to set-up payments for oil in currencies other than the dollar.  Naturally, the story has been denied by several of the participants.  But, from what I have experienced so far about Qatar living here for just the past 2 months, the Qatari government is very astute at acting in the nation’s best interest.  They are not going to make bad investments (accepting debased dollars for oil) in the long run and interrupt their own economic growth just because the U.S wants them to.  A source of mine on the ground here in Doha has also indicated that the Gulf Cooperation Council (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E., Oman, and Saudi Arabia) which plans to institute a common currency in 2010, is currently debating whether that currency should float or be pegged to another currency.  Apparently, the leading favorite for pegging is the euro.  If this were to happen, overnight the euro would also become the currency of choice for purchasers of oil.  None of these indicators are good news for the dollar and its future as the world’s reserve currency.

It’s no secret how we got to this place.  The U.S. has been on a spending binge ever since Richard Nixon took us off the last vestige of the Gold Standard in 1971.  Throughout, the term of George W. Bush the welfare / warfare state accelerated federal spending, and interest rates were kept very low by the Fed.  Once the bills came due and the financial crisis hit, the politicians, especially the current president, and the money oligarchs at the Fed knew only to spend more money and lower rates even further to combat the emergency.  See, they either never considered that these actions of theirs got us into the mess in the first place or they realized that since we were in a messy fix they needed to help their benefactors on Wall Street and the best way to do that was to pursue the same policies, but label it “stimulus” or “quantitative easing” to fool the masses.  Only time will tell whether their chicanery has worked.

One thing is for sure, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke is between an overheated printing press and a hard place.  If he raises rates and siphons trillions out of the economy he will burst the current Fed induced stock market bubble.  Housing values will sink even lower to reach supply/ demand equilibrium.  Unemployment will accelerate even more given the higher cost of money for businesses.  If he maintains the status quo, which seems likely given his cowardice in the face of political consequences, the dollar will be finished as the world’s reserve currency.  He claims he has the tools and the know-how to siphon trillions of dollars out of the economy to prevent inflation once the recovery picks up.  But, given the amount of money and credit the Fed has injected since the crisis began, and Washington’s thirst for huge deficits, Bernanke would need to be more than a mere mortal to accomplish that.

Many may ask, well, what would be so bad about the dollar losing world reserve currency status?  For one thing, demand for dollars will evaporate.  Foreigners will not need them to buy oil and other commodities.  Consequently, the Fed will no longer be able to simply print new money to cover the future debts of Congress’ because no one will be interested in buying the Treasury bonds that support the monetization.  Since demand for the dollar will be gone its value will drop precipitously and this will actually force our government to raise taxes and/or print money just to buy the necessities of a nuclear power and industrialized society – namely uranium and oil.  In light of the amount of debt we already have and the future unfunded liabilities of Medicare and social security, the standard of living in the U.S. will be equivalent to Mexico’s.  One huge benefit would be the death of the welfare/ warfare state because merely put, “you can’t get blood out of a stone.”  But the loss of wealth will not be worth it.

In some ways the chairman of the Federal Reserve is the most powerful person in the world.  He supplies the money the whole world uses to buy commodities.  That distinction will soon come to an end.  When it does Ben Bernanke will go down as the worst Fed chairman in history since the dollar collapsed because of his policies and on his watch.  Congressmen Ron Paul R-Texas and Alan Grayson D-Florida are about to request that the Senate delay Bernanke’s confirmation hearing for another term as Fed chairman until he releases more information pertaining to the many bailouts of the Fed in the current crisis.  Instead President Obama should withdraw Bernanke’s nomination altogether.  It is possibly too late to stop the inevitable collapse of the dollar.  Maybe Obama can find a competent hand to pick up the pieces when it happens?

The Nobel Peace Prize has become a Politicized Joke

October 10, 2009

The inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, stipulated in his will that a huge part of his fortune would go toward a peace prize awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”  The five-member committee that chooses the prize’s winners is selected by Norway’s Parliament.  It has over time liberalized the selection process by choosing those that are not necessarily peacemakers but poverty, disease, and climate change foes.  In other words, they have granted awards to warriors in some of their favorite causes.

This year they really liberalized the process by selecting someone who has no accomplishments in any of the above.  Of course I am alluding to the shocking news that Barack Obama has won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  Hence, the reason the Prize has become a politicized joke.

The selection is proof that the committee has also gotten caught up in the whole Obama hysteria.  Give me a break.  They nominated him for the prize just 12 days after he was inaugurated as president!  Aren’t nominees based on outstanding achievement?  Simply becoming president does not qualify – take George W. Bush as an example.

In its selection of Obama the committee said it “attached special importance to Obama’s vision of, and work for, a world without nuclear weapons.”  The statement is clearly in reference to the President’s speech to the United Nations where he pledged to work for a nuclear free world.  Apparently the committee believes that words speak louder than actions since the President has never acted to reduce nuclear weapons as either a senator or president.  Besides, a nuclear free world is fantasy.  Because of the fear of Armageddon nuclear weapons have prevented World War III.  Giving up our nukes is politically impossible given his rhetoric that Iran and North Korea are out to get us with theirs.  Why would we disarm and leave ourselves vulnerable to every bad guy come lately?

 According to the committee, another rationale for their selection was because “Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics.  Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play.”  Yes, multilateral diplomacy is important, but after Bush even McCain would have looked like Dag Hammarskjold in terms of multilateral diplomacy.  I am not sure this is that great an accomplishment. 

The second part of the quote shows the committees political leanings – socialist.  The United Nations is useless.  The 20th Century was one of the bloodiest in history.  The U.N. doesn’t prevent wars.  In fact, huge amounts of its budget are eaten up with administration costs and salaries making it nothing more than a huge international jobs program for the upper and middle classes of developing nations.  But, the socialists love it because it lends a hand to the less fortunate and provides the appearance that something has been done to ensure world peace.  Thus, the committee loves Obama because he loves the U.N.

I did read one article on Obama’s selection that hypothesized he was chosen not so much for his performance but for his promise.  This is ridiculous as well.  It’s like me as a teacher prejudging a student and giving him an “A” before the term begins because he comes from a good family background and therefore has great promise.  Even worse, it’s more like a new straight “A” college graduate getting a six figure income job over a ten year veteran with a proven track record.  These scenarios are unreasonable.  The big question is: What if Obama does not fulfill his promise?  Does he have to give up the award with its $1.5 million prize?  And how tarnished will the award be in the future?

It is ludicrous that Jimmy Carter brokered a peace deal between two historical enemies (Egypt and Israel) in the late 1970s and didn’t receive the Prize.  It is even more insane that Obama has done nothing to promote peace and he gets the Prize.  In reality, Obama in several instances has even been anti-peace.  He has not ended the cruel embargo against Cuba which has done nothing to end the tyranny and has only hurt the people on the ground and driven a wedge between our two nations.  He will not be closing the Guantanamo Bay prisoner of war camp this January.  He will more than likely commit additional troops to Afghanistan.  Like his predecessor, he continues to talk tough to Iran and North Korea.  And let’s not forget his unofficial war in Pakistan.

No, all of the reasons given for Obama’s selection just do not add up.  There must be something else under the surface.  Since the socialists on the Peace Prize’s committee love socialized medicine, perhaps they are attempting to hand Obama some political capital to use in his battle to socialize our healthcare system.  Talk about liberalizing the selection process to support their pet projects.  Whatever the case, the Nobel Peace Prize has become a politicized joke because it has been given to an unworthy recipient in the cause of promoting the committee’s political agenda.  Whatever, socialist goal that is.

Trillions More in Debt with Nothing Good to Show for It

October 4, 2009

It is easy to get caught up in all the hype of the media pundits, Ben Bernanke, Joe Biden and Barack Obama that the economy is slowly but surely recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s.  It’s not.  And what is even worse is that we are even deeper in debt with nothing good to show for it.

In September of 2007, just months before the current crisis began, our national debt was a little over $9 trillion give or take a few billion.  As of late last week, our national debt was quickly approaching $12 trillion.  That is an increase in debt of $3 trillion in just two years!  Of course, most of the new debt is a result of stimulus spending, other government handouts to stimulate the economy, and war – things Keynesians have always historically believed would turn any economy around.  That theory has been disproved previously and this current economic crisis is just the most recent repudiation of it.

So, with all this spending what do we have to show for it.  This week the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that unemployment is at a 26 year high in the United States at 9.8 percent.  Payroll employment has fallen for 21 consecutive months, with total jobs lost equaling 7.2 million.  This is only the phoney government number.  It doesn’t count workers who have been unemployed so long they have given up on finding a job and those working part time that prefer full time.  The total unemployed number, meaning the number the government has always used up until the Clinton years, is actually 17 percent!  This is a Great Depression number.  So it is interesting when Fed chairman Ben Bernanke says his monetary policies have kept us from an economic calamity. 

In addition to higher unemployment, with the new debt we also have lower consumer confidence.  The 2nd Quarter real gross domestic product number down at an annual rate of .7 percent.  And lastly, Americans continue to lose their homes to foreclosures.  They increased by 17 percent in the 2nd quarter in spite of a government spending program meant to help borrowers save their homes.  Taking all these facts together, only a fool would believe the economy is recovering, Keynesian economics works, and Ben Bernanke has saved us from an economic abyss.

There is one sector of the economy that is doing pretty well as a result of all this new debt – big banks.  As a group their stock prices are up.  They are receiving a good rate of return on their bailout money being held in their Fed reserve accounts.  Bonuses are being paid.  And they are enjoying the privileges that come with Fed membership – anonymity when given our money and protection against failure.  Perhaps when Bernanke, Biden, and Obama talk of recovery they have the big banks in mind.

One thing is clear.  Most of America is not experiencing an economic recovery.  $3 trillion more in debt and the economy is still in the dumper.  The so-called jobless recovery policymakers speak of is an insult.  It doesn’t give much comfort to the 7.2 million folks who have lost their jobs since December 2007.  The only jobless recovery that is acceptable is the one that will result when the scoundrels that caused this mess lose their jobs.  Americans will have this opportunity starting next year.  Hopefully, they will take full advantage of it.