Friday, July 27, 2007

Reefer Madness

Headline in the Daily Mail (UK): Smoking just one cannabis joint raises danger of mental illness by 40% ! (Gasp! Gasp!)

In short, the article says "pot is bad, you shouldn't smoke pot, m'kay?" It then goes on to contradict itself, and the study which it is written about. The study was commissioned by the UK Department of Health, and the results were released coincidentally with the news of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's intent to downgrade cannabis to class "C," the "least dangerous" category. From the article:

'Although individual lifetime risk of chronic psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, even in people who use cannabis regularly, is likely to be low - less than three per cent - cannabis use can be expected to have a substantial effect on psychotic disorders at a population level because exposure to this drug is so common.'

Cardiff University researcher Dr Stanley Zammit added: 'Even if cannabis does cause an increased risk of developing psychosis, most people who use cannabis will not develop such an illness.

'Nevertheless, we would still advise people to avoid or limit their use of this drug, especially if they start to develop any mental health symptoms, or if they have relatives with psychotic illnesses.'

At the end of the article, there is a small "profile" section featuring three men who, as the article and study would have the reader believe, became mentally deranged schizoid killers because they smoked pot. The profile admits that two of the three men used alcohol and other drugs as well as cannabis. The third, Thomas Palmer, killed two acquaintances after smoking "skunk." What the article fails to mention is that Palmer tried to use his cannabis smoking as his defense for the two murders. His defense was rejected, and he was convicted.

Nearly everyone has some sort of "mental illness" to a certain degree. Our society is eager to assign labels and diagnoses to everyone. Some people even desire to be diagnosed with a mental illness in order to validate thoughts about their own inadequacy. If one digs deep enough, one can find emotional and psychological scar tissue in every person on the planet. It does not mean you are crazy. And smoking pot won't make you that way, either. But Cannabis is a Schedule I drug in the U.S., while cocaine is in the prescribeable Schedule II category. And anyone can buy alcohol. There is more tragedy surrounding the latter two drugs than the former.

A much better article on this subject can be read over at Auntie Beeb.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back from the People's Republic of New Jersey

You know, the state where you can't make a left turn or pump your own gas. They do make up for it with wonderful sweet corn (Silver Queen) and tomatoes (Rutgers, Jersey Giant, etc.)during the summer.

I would recommend that anyone travelling from Virginia to New Jersey bypass D.C./Baltimore entirely by going up 81 to the PA Turnpike, and across through Philadelphia. A few more miles, but no bumper to bumper, lane to lane madness. Travel time is roughly the same. Save your sanity.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Second Amendment is an Individual Right

As a libertarian (small "l"), I strongly believe in the rights of the Individual. Any attempt to collectivize individuals, and hand over individual rights to a group or government, is highly offensive and morally wrong. The framers of our United States had the same ideas in mind when they wrote our Constitution and Declaration of Independence. From the Declaration:

"...That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed... "

The first ten amendments to our constitution are what is known as the "Bill of Rights." Even a cursory reading of these amendments will show that these rights are individual rights. These rights are not given to the people by the government; they are a list of rights, held by individuals, which the government may not infringe upon. The Constitution is clear on the difference between individuals (the People) and government (the State, Several States, or the United States). It is a collectivist view that equates the meaning in the Constitution of "the People" with the government. The term "the People" is used in Amendments I, II, IV, IX, and X. Amendment X reads:

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

The framers obviously believed that the difference in terms was clear.

The second amendment in particular is absolutely an individual right. It states:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Many people get hung up on the meaning of the word "Militia." In Presser v. Illinois (1886), Supreme Court Justice William Woods wrote:

"It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States, as well as that of the states; and in view of this prerogative of the general government as well as of its general powers, the States cannot, even laying the constitutional provisions in question out of view, prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms..."

Justice James McReynolds in U.S. v. Miller (1939) wrote:

"...the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense...bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time"

If there were any question whether the second amendment, in Miller, was not an individual right, the court would have ruled that Miller had no standing under the second amendment as an individual, and would have denied him the right to keep any arms.

What has an honest and just government to fear from armed individual citizens? Nothing. Only when government has become corrupt and tyrannical is there any reason to fear an armed citizenry. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist Papers No. 28, writes that armed militias may rise up against the federal government should it become corrupt. The "original right of self-defense [is]...paramount to every positive form of government." As history shows, one of the first steps to tyrannical government is a disarming of its citizens

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Who's the Sicko?

In a recent discussion with friends over a few beers, the movie "Sicko" came up. I have not seen the movie, and probably will not see it anytime soon. I know the claims that have been made in "Sicko," that the American system of heath care is poor, and that it favors enriching health insurance corporations. There may be a grain of truth to the latter claim, however small. The rest of it is hogwash.

The "health care system" in America is one of the best, if not the best, in the world. This does not rule out the need for improvement. But it is far, far better than anything you will find in a communist country (Cuba) or a socialist country (Canada). While anyone can see a doctor (general practitioner) whenever they need to, free of charge, in these countries, the waiting period to see a specialist is weeks, months, or even years. Lifesaving operations, diagnostics, and treatments are delayed for so long that patients routinely die before their appointment time. Why do Canadians come here for treatment? Because they know they will not die before they can see a specialist. There is incentive here, called a free market, for an abundance of specialists to compete for patients. In Canada, it is illegal for a patient to see a doctor unless the government is involved. The government decides how many operations or treatments will be available for its citizens (subjects) each year.

No one is denied health care in this country. Anyone who needs medical treatment will receive it, despite their ability to pay. What people get confused about is the difference between "health care" and "health insurance." The insurance companies charge more and more because "health care" providers charge more and more. The providers have to charge more to cover the loss of treating people who have no ability to pay! In poor neighborhoods, people use the emergency room as their primary care physician (despite programs to provide them with family physicians pro bono). Hospitals admit indigent people routinely. There are free clinics of every type available to anyone who asks. To say that the poor of this country have no access to health care is grossly inaccurate and intellectually dishonest.

The real motivation behind Michael Moore and his movie "Sicko" is to set the stage for socialist weenie democrat "Universal Health Care." Michael Moore has demonstrated his leftist leanings and intellectual dishonesty in his previous movies. "Sicko" is no different.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Getting Out Of Jury Duty is Never Easy

A Cape Cod man called himself a liar, a racist, and a homophobe to get out of jury duty. He was taken into custody, and may face perjury and contempt charges.

Does an individual not have the right to express himself? Even if his expression, offensive as it is, would tempt a judge to jail him for such? Who can say whether the man is lying or not? And is it not incumbent upon the judge to remove such a character from the group of potential jurors for making such statements?

At least he did not attempt a sob story. I give him points for daring and originality.

Look, No Poop!

I am a fan of "touchless" public restrooms. Quite frankly, while I am no OCD germophobe, the fewer things I have to touch in a public restroom the better. I am a big fan of restrooms which use a "baffle," rather than a door, to separate the rest room from the outside. I was intrigued by the headline: Automatic Toilet Tissue Dispenser Ready.

Much like automatic flush toilets, sinks, and hand dryers/towel dispensers, the T.P. dispenser uses a motion sensor to dispense 5 sheets (sorry, Sheryl Crow) at a time:
Richard Thorne grins as he waves his hand under a toilet paper dispenser in a women's restroom. The machine spits five sheets of tissue into his grasp.

"This is probably the most personal experience you can have. We didn't want to get any frustrations," Thorne says. "None of us like to touch things they think someone before them has touched."

Not only is the automatic dispenser cleaner, it is certainly a step in the right direction for all the conservation freaks out there. One imagines 5-year-olds will no longer be able to pull off (and attempt to flush) 10 yards at a time. Perhaps this dispenser will become available in a consumer model. Just the thing to go with your Japanese Super Toilet. Be sure to scroll down in the link for an advertising poster for the "apricot washer." Looks somewhat painful...

UPDATE: I saw a toilet called "clean-seat-matic" at the Llamabutchers. Another useful bathroom idea if your house has 5- and 3-year-old boys. Need we say more?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Libby Pardon

The Maximum Leader at Naked Villainy had a few thoughts about the Libby pardon which echo my own. He writes:
...your Maximum Leader believes that what Scooter Libby was convicted of was (more or less) disagreeing with Tim Russert on matters relating to a time line. Honestly, your Maximum Leader didn’t care if Scooter Libby went to jail or not. And frankly, George W Bush is so unpopular now that any action he took (or yet chooses to take) on Scooter Libby can’t hurt him politically. Bush is beyond these “little” things hurting him now. And, truth be told, your Maximum Leader is more than a little pissed that Bush has done such a half-assed job of using his pardon powers. If you are going to take an action that will be so politcally charged that your enemies will be demanding your head on a pike; and your friends are not going to make any attempt to give you cover - well then you might as well just commit yourself to your choice. What Bush has done here is take a half-step that does nothing but keep the wound open just deep enough to keep from closing. And since Bush has left open the possibility that a full pardon may yet be in the works… This isn’t over yet. Bush should have either done nothing and let Libby hang - or he should have just given Libby the full pardon. But Bush isn’t good at thinking these things through…

It was a bogus case from the beginning (I would refer the reader to my post on Valerie Plame back in March). It would have gone nowhere without Chuck Schumer insisting on independent council. Bush leaving the conviction standing means that Libby will be disbarred. But that's not such a bad thing. Clinton (male) was disbarred. And it does not matter.

Yes, I can't resist flogging the dead horse that is Bill Clinton. Clinton (male and female) lied repeatedly, in public, on the record. Clinton (male) lied under oath, and was impeached. He asked others to lie on his behalf. And then he lied about the lies.

All the while, the real leaker in the Plame case, Undersecretary Richard Armitage, remained silent while Libby twisted in the wind. For supposedly lying about a conversation he had with a TV talk show host. Seems rather trivial by comparison, but hey, it's just another nail in Bush's coffin.