Category Archives: Healthcare

A Youthful Indiscretion

Democrat presidential candidate and Illinois Senator Barack Obama is only the latest politician to admit to using drugs in his youth. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Clarence Thomas, Newt Gingrich, John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean and a number of who’s who of the political class (of both political parties) have admitted to using marijuana at some point in each of their younger days. Though President George W. Bush has made no secret of once being an alcoholic, he never has admitted to using illegal drugs even as rumors of his past ‘youthful indiscretions’ by others persist.

Even those who are in favor of ratcheting up the war on (some) drugs who have never personally used drugs ask for leniency when it comes to their friends or their family members. Republican presidential hopeful and Arizona Senator John McCain wants to ‘redouble efforts’ of the war on (some) drugs. But should these redoubled efforts apply to someone like his wife Cindy McCain who in the mid 1990’s was caught stealing Percocet and Vicodin? Interestingly enough, the penalty for illegally possessing these drugs is a year in prison for each pill and a mandatory fine. Does anyone believe for a minute that Cindy McCain spent any time in the slammer or paid any fines? Of course not, Senators’ wives play by a different set of rules.

And then there’s Noelle Bush, the daughter of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (and President Bush’s niece) who was busted in 2002 for trying to use a fraudulent prescription to illegally obtain the prescription drug Xanax. As I wrote in a previous post, Florida has an alternative program for drug offenders called drug courts. Drug offenders who choose not to risk a prison sentence up to five years can basically plead guilty and submit to the terms of the drug court (which often means mandatory drug rehab and probation). Ms. Bush chose this option and reported to a court ordered drug rehab program. In September of 2002, Bush was caught with ‘2 grams of a white rock substance’ which tested positive for cocaine (crack?). The court later sentenced her to a whopping 10 days in jail for violating her probation.

I have nothing against Cindy McCain or Noelle Bush or any of the aforementioned politicians as it relates to the youthful indiscretions of their pasts. What I do have a problem with is their blatant hypocrisy. If rehab is good enough for Noelle Bush, why isn’t it enough for the Garrison brothers who were sentenced to 15 and 19 years in prison for ‘powder cocaine and crack cocaine conspiracy’? (Note: no drugs or paraphernalia were ever found in the investigation. Read the story here). If Cindy McCain can obtain illegal prescriptions for her pain, why can’t Angel Raich smoke marijuana to relieve herself of hers under a doctor’s recommendation?

Our prisons are filled with non-violent drug offenders who cannot offer the ‘youthful indiscretion’ explanation as a legal defense. Meanwhile, many of these same individuals who survived the war on (some) drugs win enough support from enough voters to place them in office only to empower the government even further to terrorize the American public. These are the types of policies which turn private citizens into criminals for defending their own homes in botched police raids. In the case of Cory Maye, the police stormed his apartment late at night even though his neighbor was the primary target of the raid. As a result, Maye fatally shot Officer Ron Jones after Jones successfully kicked in the door. Maye was convicted of murder even though the court failed to prove that he knew he was shooting at a police officer at the time he pulled the trigger (Maye testified that he thought the police were intruders meaning to do him and his daughter harm; the police did not identify themselves as they kicked in the door). Others such as Kathryn Johnston were not as lucky as Maye (Johnson was fatally shot by the police after she fired her gun. She apparently also thought that the police were intruders meaning to do her harm). The war on (some) drugs is no joke to the families of these victims.

As the 2008 presidential campaign heats up, its important to know where the candidates stand on these issues, especially those who have admitted to doing drugs in the past. Interestingly, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, John McCain, Rudolph Giuliani, John Cox, Duncan Hunter, Mitt Romney and Tom Tancredo do not have official positions listed on their campaign websites concerning the war on (some) drugs. One thing we can be sure of, none of these candidates are looking to ‘re-deploy’ from the war on (some) drugs anytime soon.

Still, there are apparent differences of opinion among the candidates on how to proceed on the war on (some) drugs from here. Republican candidate and Texas Representative Ron Paul and Democrat candidate and Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich hope to put an immediate end to the drug war. Edwards and Clinton want to move toward the drug court solution to give non-violent drug offenders a chance to be rehabilitated. Edwards also voted against increasing penalties for certain drug-related crimes and in his 2004 run for president wanted to end the criminal distinction between rock and powder cocaine. Republican candidate and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee admitted in 1999 that the current approach on the drug war isn’t working (admitting the problem is a great first step Governor). McCain seems to be the most hawkish on the drug war. McCain wants to increase penalties for drug dealers and would like to see ‘drug kingpins’ put to death (Interestingly, McCain doesn’t seem to want to increase penalties for drug users. I wonder if his wife’s drug problem had any influence on this position?).

The 2008 campaign is still in its infancy and much of these positions are yet to be fleshed out. I predict that more youthful indiscretions will be exposed. It’s up to the voting public to hold these candidates accountable and demand equal treatment under the law.

Somebody’s Gotta Say It (Book Review)

(Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds)

As a regular listener of The Neal Boortz Show, I find this book every bit as hard-hitting, insensitive, informative, and entertaining as his show. The High Priest of the Painful Truth pulls no punches in his assault on ignorance whether from the Right, the Left, or Center. The Libertarian Party (the party that most closely reflects his views) is even skewered on a number of fronts.

It’s difficult to know how people who do not listen to his show will respond. You will likely find this book near books with a conservative political bent but conservatives who expect to find yet another book which relentlessly attacks the Left while keeping their sacred cows protected will be sorely disappointed. While Boortz dedicates a significant portion of the book to the lunacy of the Left, the Right is criticized for pushing their religious anti-science agenda on the American public (especially in government schools), their homophobia, and their continuous chipping away at the limited government platform they claim to embrace.

Boortz has many targets in this book but none receive more of his ire than government schools. Teacher’s unions exist solely to keep mediocre to incompetent teachers in a job; they will fight tooth and nail to prevent any kind of competition from private schools. But government schools are even more harmful that what we can see on the surface. Want to know why the American public has lost its love for freedom in exchange for security from an ever expanding government? According to Boortz, government schools are to blame. Government schools teach school children from a very young age that government is good and is the solution to every problem. There is even a chapter dedicated to how school children learn their first lesson in communism. Have you ever taken your child to the store and bought school supplies on a list only to have the teacher take those supplies away from your child to be donated to the class? If you don’t believe this to be a big deal consider the lesson your child is learning: he or she must give up his or her private property (school supplies in this case) for “the greater good” of the whole society (the classroom in this case).

Is it any coincidence that most Americans erroneously believe that America’s government is a democracy rather than a constitutional representative republic? Is it any coincidence that most Americans don’t know the difference or know why this distinction is important? Boortz contends that this is not by accident but by design. The purpose of government schools is not to educate students but to indoctrinate them into obedient citizens subjects.

Eventually, these school children grow up to be voters (Did I mention that the author finds no constitutional guarantee to the right to vote? Sounds crazy but once you read his arguments and consult the U.S. Constitution, he makes a compelling case). After thirteen years of government indoctrination, many of these adults see no problem with wealth redistribution, the welfare state, the nanny state, and have no genuine appreciation for liberty. This makes it very easy for politicians to pander to the American public to meet all of these needs which far too many people believe to be birthrights. Those who believe this the most tend to vote Democrat which leads me to his chapter “The Democrats’ Secret Plan for America.”

Boortz mockingly calls the Democrat plan a “secret plan” because of how Democrats typically scare various constituencies about Republican secret plans to kick old people into the street, burn black churches, and starve babies. Much of the secret plan is no secret at all however. So what do the Democrats have in store for America should they retain congress and win the presidency? According to the author we can expect the entire tax burden to be shifted to the wealthy, imputed income (which would put most all home owners in a higher tax bracket), place caps on income for those who “make too much,” add taxes to 401k and other investment vehicles which are not currently taxed, womb to the tomb universal government healthcare, the reinstatement of the “fairness doctrine” (which would effectively put an end to talk radio), the repeal of the Second Amendment, and several other such wet dreams of the far Left. If you don’t read any other chapter in this book, read this chapter.

Certainly, this book isn’t one which will leave the reader thinking “Its morning in America” but it does offer a fair amount of humor, positive solutions (such as what should be taught in government schools; provides his own citizenship test), and an inside peek of the talk radio business. Boortz opens the book by introducing himself, his interests and how he got into talk radio (under rather tragic circumstances). Even in the chapters that contain a discouraging outlook have a healthy dose of humor. But if you are overly outraged after reading the chapter about government funded art or the Democrat Party’s war on the individual, skip to “Chasing Cats” or “Terrorizing the Mailroom.” I won’t give away what these chapters are about but I assure you that you are in for a good belly laugh (that Boortz is quite the prankster).

Somebody’s Gotta Say It is a refreshingly honest, sober view of the body politic, American culture, and state of our world. Boortz presents a variety of original controversial ideas on a variety of issues. Such proposals would certainly make the political debate more productive if not more interesting (a number of these proposals can be found toward the end of the book in a chapter entitled “No Way in Hell.”). I highly recommend this book for anyone who is not easily offended. Anyone who is easily offended should skip this book in favor of a selection from the Oprah Book Club.

Christian Pharmacists And Muslim Cashiers

Just a question. Is there any moral difference between these two?

Muslim cashiers won’t ring up pork products

So Dsouza was taken aback when the cashier – who had on the traditional headscarf worn by many Muslim women – refused to swipe the bacon through the checkout scanner.

“She made me scan the bacon. Then she opened the bag and made me put it in the bag,” said Dsouza, 53. “It made me wonder why this person took a job as a cashier.”

In the latest example of religious beliefs creating tension in the workplace, some Muslims in the Twin Cities are adhering to a strict interpretation of the Koran that prohibits the handling of pork products.

Instead of swiping the items themselves, they are asking non-Muslim employees or shoppers to do it for them.

Some pharmacists say no to filling birth-control prescriptions

An increasing number of pharmacists around the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth-control and morning-after pills, saying that dispensing the medications violates their personal moral or religious beliefs.

“There are pharmacists who will only give birth-control pills to a woman if she’s married. There are pharmacists who mistakenly believe contraception is a form of abortion and refuse to [dispense] it to anyone,” said Adam Sonfield of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, which tracks reproductive issues. “There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won’t even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence.”

Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t see any difference between these actions. Can anyone see any logical rational to stand up for one while denouncing the other?

Raich’s Options: Die or Go to Jail

Doug has already written about how our courts have denied Angel Raich her right to life but I think this is such a fundamental miscarriage of justice that it deserves further discussion. Angel Raich suffers with a brain tumor, chronic pain, seizures, Scoliosis, TMJ and other medical conditions; her physician has determined that cannabis is her only effective treatment option for these conditions. According to Raich’s website, from 1996 to 1999 she could not move the right side of her body and had to use a wheelchair. After smoking the cannabis as recommended by her doctor, she was able to ditch the wheelchair and better manage her pain.

Cannabis has done more than restore Raich’s mobility and alleviate pain. According to her physician Dr. Frank Lucidio, taking her off her cannabis regimen would cause “imminent harm” which would likely lead to her death by starvation or malnutrition. Yet somehow the powers that be in their infinite wisdom have determined that Raich’s life is not worth saving. Their precious prohibition of marijuana is more important.

It seems that Raich will have to risk going to jail if she wants to live. This isn’t the first time Raich has had legal setbacks regarding this issue. Back in 2005, SCOTUS ruled against her 6-3 in Gonzales vs. Raich. The majority opinion even acknowledged that without the cannabis she could die. The following is a post I wrote on June 9, 2005 at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds in reaction to this disastrous ruling.

State, Economic, and Individual Rights Up in Smoke
I cannot say that I was surprised with the unfortunate 6-3 Supreme Court ruling (Gonzales vs. Raich) in which the court determined using marijuana for medicinal purposes violates federal law. In the process of fighting the war on drugs, civil liberties of this great country have been compromised over and over again from courts all across the land. My interest in this case initially was due to my opposition to the war on drugs. The reasoning this court used to justify the ruling, however; should disturb every capitalist, supporter of states’ rights, fiscal conservative, constructionist, and those who value limited government, irrespective of how each views the war on drugs.

In the majority opinion delivered by Justice Stevens (joined by Kennedy, Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer; Scalia wrote his own opinion concurrent with the ruling), the ruling recognized that Respondents Raich and Monson may indeed benefit from using marijuana for their conditions, written as follows:

They [Raich and Monson] are being treated by licensed, board-certified family practitioners, who have concluded, after prescribing a host of conventional medicines to treat respondents’ conditions and to alleviate their associated symptoms, that marijuana is the only drug available that provides effective treatment. Both women have been using marijuana as a medication for several years pursuant to their doctors’ recommendation, both rely heavily on cannabis to function on a daily basis. Indeed Raich’s physician believes that forgoing cannabis treatments would certainly cause Raich excruciating pain and could very well prove fatal. (p. 3, paragraph 2)

So what’s the problem then? If Raich’s condition could become fatal because she stops using marijuana, she now has to risk arrest by federal agents or chose to die by following the law? What happened to this ‘culture of life’ conservatives like to talk about?

Despite the benefits as determined by the court’s majority, the court still managed to find reason to rule against a law passed by the people of California. As disturbing as denying medication to those who truly need it is, the reasoning is even more cause for alarm. The ruling reads:

Our case law firmly establishes Congress’ power to regulated purely local activities that are part of an economic “class of activities” that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce…As we stated in Wickard, “even if appellee’s activity be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce…When Congress decides that “’total incidence’” of a practice poses a threat to a national market, it may regulate the entire class. (p.13-14, paragraph 3)

What kind of flawed reasoning is this? This so-called interstate commerce is grown, sold, and used locally. How does this local activity affect commerce in other states? It appears that this bad court decision is based on a few other bad court decisions, loosely interpreting the ‘commerce clause’ (Section 8; Clauses 3 and 18) of the U.S. Constitution. The obvious problem is that the court is granting power to the congress to manipulate the economy however it sees fit regardless of if the commerce is interstate or not. This is frightening. Using this line of reasoning, any activity one could choose to participate in or not participate in could be considered an ‘economic activity,’ subject to the will of the U.S. Congress!

If you think I am being an alarmist, read Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent. Thomas gets straight to the point writing:

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything-and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers. (Justice Thomas Dissenting, p.1 paragraph 1 or p.62 paragraph 1 in the pdf. format)

What does Thomas mean when he states that “…under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything…” ? Thomas continues:

If the majority is to be taken seriously, the Federal Government may now regulate quilting bees, clothes drives, and potluck suppers throughout the 50 States. This makes a mockery of Madison’s assurance to the people of New York that the “powers delegated” to the Federal Government are “few and defined,” while those of the States are “numerouse and indefinite.” (Justice Thomas Dissenting, p.13 paragraph 1 or p.74 paragraph 1 in the pdf. format)

It is truly amazing the lengths our Federal Government will go to continue fighting the war on drugs. The casualties in this battle are people such as Diane Monson and Angel Raich who must find an alternative treatment for their conditions (though by the court’s own admission, marijuana is probably the best treatment available for these women), the California voters who passed the proposition, the free market, the States, the Constitution, and ultimately, everyone who believes in limited government.

Walter Reed Hospital: A Preview Of Coming Attractions

Over at Reason’s Hit&Run, Ronald Bailey looks at the horrible conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital and sees the future of government-run healthcare:

[L]ook no further than the scandalous mess at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Crappy hospitals, endless waits, mountains of paperwork and, at the end of the day, no real accountability from the people who run the joint. Folks, if the government can’t or won’t take good care of our injured soldiers, what makes you think that it will take good care of little Sally or Uncle Bill?

Health care in the United States is screwed up. This is largely due to bad government policies, e.g., third party payment encouraged through the tax code and multiplying state insurance mandates that unnecessarily boost costs. As the example of Walter Reed is warning us, putting total control of all health care in the hands of those who wrecked it in first place–Congress, states and federal agencies–is the wrong way to go.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the lesson that most people will take away from this particular disaster.

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