Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

One of the best congressmen ever just had a birthday party Star Wars fans will love

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Congressman Justin Amash, a great liberty advocate and one of Rare Under 40 Awards honorees, had a birthday this week. Rep. Amash’s staff knows he’s a Star Wars buff, and, according to a Facebook post from the congressman, surprised him with a party that Star Wars fans will appreciate.

It sure looks like Amash’s staff went all out for his 36th birthday!

Not only did they manage to get a Stormtrooper made out of balloons through tight Washington security, but the accompanying “weapon” was allowed into the halls of Congress, as well.

And the best part of the whole ensemble had to be the adorable dog dressed as an Ewok! As it turns out, the cute little guy is Amash’s new puppy! According to a recent post on Amash’s Instagram page, the dog is a Cavanese named Finn.

Amash, who was elected to the Michigan State House when he was 28, first won his seat in Congress in 2010 at the age of 30. Rare presented him with an Under 40 Award for the impact he’s already made.

Not only is Amash a leading voice for strict constitutionalism in Washington, but he’s also a model of transparency.

From Rare’s Under 40 description praising Amash: “Among Republicans, Amash is the only member of his party to explain every vote on Facebook. Not an intern or a staffer. Amash does all the social media posting himself. He tweets regularly, taking on everyone from his own party’s establishment to President Obama.”

Happy birthday to Rep. Justin Amash! We hope that he – and his adorable Ewok – enjoyed the day.

Is the U.S. government about to finally reclassify marijuana?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Since 1970, marijuana has been classified by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule 1 substance. This means that, technically speaking, the government views marijuana as highly addictive, void of medicinal value, and as dangerous as heroin.

If this sounds insane to you, that’s because it is! But a change might finally be around the corner.

As the editorial board members of the Los Angeles Times recently explained, “The DEA has twice considered and rejected requests to reclassify the drug over the last two decades. The last time was in 2011. Frankly, a change is long overdue.”

As the board notes, the DEA is looking at this matter again and could make a change as soon as July.

While the nation struggles with a sharp increase in deaths due to opioid overdoses – in which heroin plays a big role – it’s hard to continue justifying treating marijuana as the same kind of drug. This is particularly glaring with marijuana now legal for medicinal use in 23 states and recreational use in 4 states and Washington D.C.

According to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 18,000 Americans died from an opioid-related prescription overdose in 2014, a 3.4-fold increase since 2001. Similarly, over 10,000 have died as a result of a heroin overdose since 2014, an astounding 6-fold increase since 2001.

And the amount of Americans who have died from overdosing on marijuana? Zero. Yet the government deems marijuana as dangerous as heroin and less dangerous than cocaine, a drug that killed over 5,000 people in 2014. You don’t have to support outright legalization of marijuana to see that its current classification is simply dead wrong.

This is especially the case given the strong evidence of marijuana’s medicinal value. While studies on medical marijuana are limited because legal access to the plant has long been restricted, an overwhelming amount of data shows that the plant can help people facing hundreds of diseases. This includes people with severe seizures, post-traumatic stress, cancer, and even alcoholism or tobacco dependence.

Whether you support outright legalization of marijuana, disagree with that but see a medicinal use, or still believe the drug should remain illegal, it’s become clear there’s no justification for classifying the plant as more dangerous than cocaine and meth and keeping it on par with LSD and heroin.

Hopefully, the DEA will make the right rescheduling decision this summer. I happen to believe it’s only a matter of time until marijuana is legal outright, given that mass chaos hasn’t erupted with the cat being out of the bag in so many parts of the country.

We have a much bigger crisis on our hands with legal prescription drug-related deaths – which cannabis advocates claim can be alleviated with, you guessed it, medical marijuana.

It’s long past time to rethink the “Reefer Madness” propaganda of the early 20th century and to acknowledge, from a legal standpoint, that marijuana isn’t the public menace its federal characterization implies.

Poll shows American voters are done trying to bring democracy to the Middle East

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Originally published at Rare

A poll released by Rasmussen this week indicates that likely American voters are wary of projects to spread democracy in the Middle East.

“Only 28% of likely U.S. voters think the United States should do more to encourage the growth of democracy in the Islamic world,” reports Rasmussen. Further, “Fifty-eight percent…say the United States should leave things alone. Fourteen percent…are undecided.”

Though a majority of voters reject nation building, that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned over terrorism. In fact, a Gallup poll found that after the attacks in Paris, terrorism skyrocketed to the number one political concern among Americans. Typically, the economy occupies that spot.

Voters clearly want to address and stop terrorism. But they don’t believe that long-term occupations with the goal of spreading democracy help achieve that goal. And given the destabilization that helped fuel the spread of ISIS in countries like Iraq, Libya, and Syria after Western military operations, they seem to have a point.

As for the presidential race, this anti-occupation sentiment could explain at least some of the appeal held by Donald Trump.

While Trump hasn’t put forth a coherent foreign policy and struggles with important concepts such as nuclear proliferation and what NATO’s function is, he has managed to tap into a portion of the electorate concerned that our government isn’t putting American interests first.

In my view, it’s too bad voters rejected the one presidential candidate who advocated an intelligent and pragmatic non-interventionist foreign policy: Senator Rand Paul.

Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to know that, while fighting terrorism is a priority for the public, “spreading democracy” isn’t the way to address the issue.

As Rand Paul said during a Republican presidential debate in December:

There are often variations of evil on both sides of a war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want. They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They wanted it in Libya. It has not worked. Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism. And yet they’re the problem, because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.

According to the data, a majority of Americans are on his side.

America’s Opioid Crisis is Finally Being Addressed, But Some Communities Feel Rightfully Slighted

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Originally published at EveryJoe

The long-brewing American opioid abuse crisis has reached epidemic levels. 2014 saw 29,000 opioid related deaths, the highest on record. And in 2013, drug overdoses were the leading cause of death in the United States. This issue stems in part from increased societal dependence on prescription painkillers, which if unchecked, can lead to life threatening addictions, some of which spiral into heroin use.

As the New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer recently reported, “The drug emergency has become increasingly pervasive, and in places rarely associated with issues like opioid addiction. An epidemic of abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin, often abused when the prescription drugs run out, has swept the United States, with overdose deaths quadrupling since the late 1990s.” This has led to a panicked but arguably necessary response from the federal government, culminating in a recent Senate bill that enjoyed rare near-unanimous bipartisan support.

“The [Senate] measure authorizes money for various treatment and prevention programs for a broad spectrum of addicts, including those in jail. It also strengthens prescription drug monitoring programs to help states and expands the availability of the drug naloxone, which helps reverse overdoses, to law enforcement agencies,” wrote Steinhauer. And as she added, “It also increases disposal sites for prescription medications that are often abused by teenagers and others.”

President Obama has taken this issue up as well, with his work culminating in a policy proposal he presented to attendees of the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit this week in Atlanta. He noted that for too long, drug addiction has been treated like a law enforcement issue rather than a public health one, and proposed an additional $1.1 billion on top of what the Senate passed. The basic goal of Obama’s program is to fund state level projects aimed at expanding medical treatment for drug addiction.

As a national response to the glaring opioid crisis the nation faces finally takes shape, there are several questions. From my libertarian perspective, there’s always the question of whether the federal level is the best place to address these matters. In a utopian world, the answer is no, this shouldn’t be up to the Feds. But as far as steps in the right direction go, I’m happy to see a shift from the longstanding War on Drugs mentality to one that looks at drug use as medical rather than legal. Insofar as there are resources to be allocated federally, I’ll take the option that doesn’t end in prison for nonviolent offenders.

It’s important to note however that for many communities this attitude shift, while representative of policy progress, is bittersweet. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who voted for the aforementioned Senate bill, has long noted that the War on Drugs has a disproportionate impact on communities of color; a point that garnered him attention from constituencies not generally associated with the Republican Party. It’s an issue he’s long promote in the Senate, and was something he focused on in his presidential campaign as well.

As Sen. Paul told CNN nearly two years ago, “Three out of four people in prison are black or brown for nonviolent drug use. However, when you do surveys, white kids are doing drugs at an equal rate, and they are a much bigger part of the population. So, why are the prisons full of black and brown kids? It is easier to arrest them. It is easier to convict them. They don’t get as good of attorneys. And, frankly, they live in the city in a much more collected fashion than in the suburbs, and so the police are patrolling the city more. But it is unfair. The War on Drugs has had a racial outcome, unintentionally, but it has a racial outcome. And I want to try to fix it.”

And it’s exactly the racial outcome Sen. Paul rightly described that now has many communities of color feeling perhaps newfound sympathy in response to the opioid problem, while good, should have been extended to the black community when they were castigated as thugs for the late 20th century crack epidemic.

In the wake of President Obama’s recent proposal, PBS interviewed Ekow Yankah, a professor at New York’s Cardozo School of Law. He made several interesting points. As he noted, “Thirty years ago, America was facing a similar wave of addiction, death and crime, and the response could not have been more different. Television brought us endless images of thin, black, ravaged bodies, always with desperate, dried lips. We learned the words crack baby.”

“Back then, when addiction was a black problem, there was no wave of national compassion,” he added. “Instead, we were warned of super predators, young, faceless black men wearing bandannas and sagging jeans. African-Americans were cast as pathological. Their plight was evidence of collective moral failure, of welfare mothers and rock-slinging thugs and a reason to cut off all help. Blacks would just have to pull themselves out of the crack epidemic. Until then, the only answer lay in cordoning off the wreckage with militarized policing.”

This certainly does invoke an image of a racially biased understanding, rife with evidence of how people in power are able to compartmentalize issues such as these – until the tragedy starts affecting their own communities – or even families. As Yankah added, “Today, police chiefs facing heroin addiction are responding not by invoking war, but by trying to save lives and get people into rehab. Suddenly, crime is understood as a sign of underlying addiction, rather than a scourge to be eradicated.”

While the racial biases are unsettling and should, as Sen. Paul and others have noted, be addressed on a systemic level, it’s good to see that at the very least, public policy is moving in the right direction. While it apparently took white people dying at the hands of opioid addiction to create a shift in attitude, the shift is positive. But it shows that so much more needs to be done on a cultural level to prove that addiction isn’t a moral failing present only in communities of color; it’s something that impacts all Americans. We can only hope that from here on out, the lesson has been learned on a broad enough basis that demilitarization around drug use will happen in all communities. The time to end the failed War on Drugs has long passed.

Rubio and Cruz Finally United Against Trump, But is it Too Late To Matter?

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Originally published at Every Joe

The last Republican debate before Super Tuesday was one of the most explosive yet. It managed to draw 14.5 million viewers, the biggest audience since December according to CNN Money. Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz took the fight to Donald Trump in a major way, but it was Rubio who really stole the show with what was largely heralded as his best debate performance of the cycle.

“Donald mentioned… that his position on immigration is what’s driven this debate,” said Rubio. “The truth is, though, a lot of these positions that he’s now taking are new to him,” he added, attacking Trump for his questionable use of illegal immigrant labor, citing the legal trouble it got him into. Rubio also pressed Trump on the fraud cases he’s faced as a result of his defunct Trump University.

And the best zinger of the night might have been when Rubio said, “If [Trump] hadn’t inherited $200 million do you know where Donald Trump would be right now? Selling watches in Manhattan!” Cruz got in his fair share of punches as well, hitting Trump on immigration, how unprepared he is to deal with a Supreme Court nomination, and on the issue of refusing to release his tax returns. Cruz also spent nearly ten minutes of a post-debate interview hitting Trump as well.

I really want to be proud of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz for the way they tag teamed Donald Trump. I was cheering throughout the debate, especially for Rubio on that front. They both did a great job of revealing Trump as the lying, authoritarian fraud he is. But I’m not convinced that at this point, just days before Super Tuesday, it matters. They should have done this all along. Long before Trump steamrolled his way through New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Instead, Rubio pretty much ignored Trump the entire cycle, while Cruz tripped over himself to appease him.

Both Rubio and Cruz hung Rand Paul and Jeb Bush out to dry when they went out of their respective ways to attack Trump for being the fake conservative that he is. I suppose they figured they’d benefit by letting those two do the dirty work. Maybe they did, insofar as they’re the last two non-Trump candidates standing. But their decision not to participate in a united attack on Trump directly contributed to his rise. They should be ashamed of themselves for waiting this long. Now, Cruz and Rubio’s attacks look more like desperation than an honest rebuke of Trump; even though I do believe they were both earnest in what they said.

As I wrote after Trump’s decisive victory in the Nevada caucus, Republicans have to come to grips with the fact that Trump might just be the Republican nominee. And now that he’s received Chris Christie’s endorsement, I fear my contention that the Republican establishment will ultimately abide Trump fairly happily will be proven accurate. Yes, it’s true that Trump as the nominee will likely lead to some degree of fracturing within Republican circles. But not nearly to the extent that libertarians who want Trump to “blow up the GOP” hope, I fear.

In my view, with Trump at the helm, we’re in for a dark eight years, whether it comes in the form of him as president, or if it’s his good friend Hillary Clinton in charge. In fact, over at The Federalist, both David Harsanyi and Tom Nichols make what in my view are pretty persuasive arguments that Hillary as president would be better for the conservative cause than Trump. That’s honestly how bad things have gotten, and why I wish Rubio and Cruz didn’t, quite selfishly, wait this long to attack Trump in the way they did at the last debate.

While it’s still possible to stop Trump delegate-wise, it seems a less likely prospect everyday. I hope that if the Trump train has no breaks the GOP will fracture more than I think it will. I earnestly wish for my libertarian friends who think his ascendency will clear the way for a viable third party to be correct. But I just don’t see it. Our government isn’t built for multiple parties the way many European systems are. We will most likely, as I described it earlier this week, end up with two Democratic parties; one focused on big government identity politics for women and people of color, the other on big government for angry white working class men. Unfortunately, both Cruz and Rubio will share in the blame for this if it does in fact happen; which seems likelier with each passing day.