1.30.2008

Don't get to close to your computer screens...

In fact, maybe you shouldn't be reading this at all.

You do NOT want to get whatever it is that we have.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going curl back up into a ball and moan some more.

1.28.2008

Mr. Rogers For President,. Part VII: The Emperor has No Gold

It was so weird. While all the other candidates spouted out the answers that Republicans wanted to hear, Ron Paul was talking sense--at least on that one issue. More than that, he was the only one who was concerned not only with how he wanted the world to be, but with being scrupulously lawful in the way we go about making the world a better place. His words displayed a quality so strikingly unexpected in a politician... integrity.

So I thought it was worth listening what he had to say about economics.

Now I have to start out by saying that I disagree with Dr. Paul about the gold standard. The constitution does not say that only gold or silver can be legal tender, it merely says that individual states are not allowed to issue any other type of money. Since no such restrictions were placed on Congressional authority to regulate currency, it seems pretty clear to me that Congress is allowed to issue fiat money. It also seems clear to me that it's a good idea for them to do so. Mild inflation is fairly innocuous, and it prevents the economic disasters that come from even the tiniest bit of deflation, so I think a little bit of inflation is a wonderfully reasonable way for the federal government to fund itself.

Problem is, that's not what's happening.

I'd always wondered how we could possibly have such a huge national debt when the government could just print out money out of nothing.

It turns out there's a very simple answer.

The government doesn't print out money.

Congress has transfered its Constitutional powers over money supply to a privately owned bank, the Federal Reserve.

The government then borrows funds from the Fed... at interest. The income tax is barely sufficient to pay the yearly interest on the national debt, let alone any expenditures, and viola, the whole nation is laboring under a negative-amortization loan.

This is silly.

Moreover, it's unethical.

I think that inflation is a perfectly legitimate way to fund the federal government. It is not a legitimate way to fund private stockholders. The Bible has an awful lot to say about what God thinks of nations that allow the rich to steal from the poor, and it isn't pretty.

This system is also just about the most dangerous national security threat that I can think of.

When our money supply--and thus our ability to arm and support our military--is completely at the mercy of unsupervised private financial interests, this is an enormously frightening situation.

But in any case, the current system is stupid and immoral...

And nobody else is talking about it.

1.25.2008

Mr. Rogers for President. Part VI: Authority

So I was pretty much convinced that the medical marijuana debate was much more than just a smokescreen, that there really were lives at stake.

Is it really conscionable to sacrifice these human beings at the altar of "sending the right message?"

Particularly considering that we don't have any problem at all allowing doctors to prescribe morphine and cocaine. It's not legal to take the drugs as a hobby, but after surgery, they give you the stuff so that you can get high instead of being in pain. Usually, I get by with ibuprophen--I think the only time when I actually took the powerful meds was after hemorrhaging when I gave birth to the twins. I'll take an awful lot of pain before I choose to ingest something that will mess with my head.

But whereas getting high is a legitimate method of pain relief for wisdom tooth patients, doctors cannot prescribe non-psychoactive doses of marijuana to prevent AIDS and cancer patients from dying of malnutrition?

There is something very wrong about this picture.

Still, I was pretty sure that states like California were out of line in passing laws that defied the authority of the federal government.

But then I listened to what Ron Paul had to say about it. And Ron Paul said that as a physician he does believe that marijuana can be medically useful in certain situations... but that it's really rather beside the point. The Constitution is very clear that such matters should be left up to the states. California should be able to allow it, Utah and Texas should be able to prohibit it, and as long as nothing crosses a state border, it just isn't any of the federal government's business at all.

I did a double take. That's definitely not the way things work in this country.

So I pulled my copy of the Constitution down from the shelf. I spent a good bit of time poring over it, searching for something that would give the federal government authority over drug laws, but it just wasn't there. The federal government has authority over currency, interstate and international commerce, military forces, post offices and roads, patents and copyrights. But the Constitution doesn't say a single thing about drug law, and the 10th amendment makes it clear that the federal government is not allowed to do anything not mentioned in the Constitution.

And then I looked at the Supreme Court majority and dissenting opinions in the 2001 case in which they decided, 6 to 3, that federal law trumped state law when it came to drugs.

O'Connor, Renquist, and Thomas dissented, saying that since backyard cannabis cultivation for personal medicinal use was neither interstate nor commercial, it could not possibly fall under the interstate commerce clause. He also gave an inspiring and eloquent argument for the importance of the federalist system, where the states serve as laboratories of justice. It's a good read.

But the majority opinion, written by Justice Stevens, states that the authority to regulate interstate commerce extends to purely non-commercial activities which have an impact on interstate markets. Stevens cited a case in which the Court decided that the federal government had the authority to regulate wheat grown for personal consumption. Apparently "regulating commerce between the several states" means that you can place controls on production in order to manipulate prices. So the government wanted to raise the price of wheat, and imposed production caps on the farmers. One farmer, concerned about the shortages that would likely arise, planted some extra for his own family's consumption, in addition to the crops for sale. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government did indeed have jurisdiction over the non-commercial wheat crops, because they would have an impact (however trivial) on the interstate wheat market.

In other words, the authority to regulate interstate commerce brings with it the power to regulate any activities which might enable you to refrain from participation in interstate commerce.

And it is through this precedent that the Court ruled that federal drug laws trump state drug laws. Since there is a large and lucrative interstate marijuana market, and marijuana cultivation for private use would have an impact on that market, the commerce clause applies in this situation.

In other words, the Suprem Court decided that patients cannot be allowed to grow marijuana because that could impinge on profits in the illegal drug trade.

No, I'm not joking. Read it for yourself.

Early to bed, early to rise...

http://mereorthodoxy.com/?p=1281
In a little while I'll finish up my posts about why I've decided that Ron Paul is worth listening to, why I think he's more likely to be right than most, even on Iraq. I'll tell my little story, and reflect calmly and inquisitively into the thought processes that go into picking a candidate.

But for now, I write with tears streaming down my face.

I don't know which way is up anymore.

Or maybe it's just that for the first time in my life, I actually do.

I've always assumed that economics and foreign policy didn't make any sense to me because I just wasn't smart enough. Surely the smart people who run our nation understand how enforced liberty isn't really contradictory, how fiat currency is a perfectly ethical basis for a economy, after all. Surely.

So I trusted the smart people in my community, and voted for the smart people they told me to vote for.

And then, a little over six years ago, everything came crashing down. In abject horror, I watched the towers fall, and the planes, but I failed to notice that the terrorists had indeed hit their mark, that the idea of America was falling as well. They sought, through fear, to bring us to our knees, and they did.

Out of the corner of my ear, I heard the president's reports on how many terrorists had been apprehended each week, and my heart soared to know how well we were being taken care of. We were going to be okay. The president had everything under control.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the signs of the protesters, something about torture, something about oil, something about the Bill of Rights. And I shook my head in disgust at these unpatriotic souls who dared to dissent in a time of war. United we stand!

But how many have received fair trials, and how many have even been charged? How many have been tortured, and of the tortured, how many were guilty, and how many were innocent? How much evidence has been destroyed, and with it how much trust?

How long can we sit by and let this happen, how long will promises to increase the brutality be met with thunderous applause?

And now the world is wondering how long the Christians will still support Huckabee now that he has voiced his disapproval of torture.

But in this world gone mad, one man is speaking truth. One man has a lucid explanation, a likely story that neatly sorts out the tangled relationships between internal and foreign affairs, national security and economics. One man is ready to explain just where we are, just how we got here, and how to set about on the long, hard road of recovery. I don't know if he's right, but I do know that he is extremely sharp, and he is honest.

I'm still open to being convinced by McCain or Huckabee as to why their views of world are more accurate. But I need to hear some darn good answers.

Never again will I cast a vote out of ignorance.

1.24.2008

Mr. Rogers for President. Part V: Nausea

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Synthetic marijuana, huh? Well, clearly marijuana must have some sort of medicinal property, then... why else would you bother imitating them? I'd never heard of marijuana doing anything except altering your state of consciousness, and maybe (or maybe not) causing brain damage. That and all the other lovely effects of smoke inhalation.

So I was curious. What else does marijuana do?

Well, apparently medical marijuana activists claim that it has all sorts of wonderful effects. And official-sounding organizations denounce these claims, and blah blah blah.

I have no idea.

But there seems to be a pretty strong consensus that low doses of marijuana are extremely effective in treating severe nausea and involuntary anorexia, such as in AIDS wasting syndrome, and cancer treatment side effects.

For the most part, nobody disputes that marijuana is effective for these conditions; instead, they argue that it is unnecessary, because there are lots of other, safer options out there.

Well, as little qualified as I may be to speculate on the effects of marijuana on interocular pressure or the progress of tumors, I do know a thing or two about nausea medications.

I thank God for the wonderful medications that took the edge off my nausea during my twin pregnancy. Although they had unpleasant side effects and came with the risk of damage to my heart and liver, they made it possible for me to keep food and fluids down most of the time--and that is a very big deal. I thank God for the enormously expensive wonder-drug that they gave me every time dehydration landed me in the ER, and I wish that it had been even remotely afordable at the time, and that it was possible to take it multiple days in a row without shutting down my digestive system. These drugs saved my life, and the lives of my sons... but nevertheless, I've spent an awful lot of time praying for a safer, more effective solution to severe nausea.

When that man in the wheelchair tells Romney that nothing else helped his nausea, I have no choice but to believe him.

Because I've been there too.

1.23.2008

The Stakes on Torture

In this struggle against radical Islam, I believe that our respect for the dignity and liberty of the human soul is our greatest strength.

If out of expediency we turn away from that respect, we choose to seek power through cruelty rather than truth. If our cruelty is mild, then so will be our power. If that is the game we are playing, then we will surely be defeated unless we can muster up a cruelty as strong as our enemies'. I shudder at either outcome.

If we lose the ideological battles, can we hope to win the physical ones? If this ceases to be for us a war between good and evil, and becomes instead a mere power struggle, our situation is grave, because it is much more than that to them, and however we may twist our consciences, it is more than that to us as well. When we ourselves ignore the liberty and dignity of the human soul, the fervor of our cause can find no target but race and creed. We become an impotent shadow of the evil we are fighting.

Relativism

Mama: Torture is bad.
Isaiah: No, porture is bad for the Mama-Chicken. I think porture is happy for the Wugger-Chicken.

My son is a child of his times, it seems.

Moral Issues

I'm one of those "single issue values voters" who will always choose the anti-abortion candidate. It's not that I think abortion is the only important moral issue, or even the most important one. The next president of the United States will be making all sorts of massive life and death decisions, and very few of those decisions will have anything to do with abortion at all.

But although the moral decisions the president will have to make on issues like national security, foreign relations, and economic policy may actually be more important, they're also really, really complicated. All of these things are case-by-case issues, complex decisions with all sorts of facets that must be weighed very carefully. Especially in a time of war, the president is faced with all sorts of enormously compex ethical decisions. I'm not qualified to make those decisions, and certainly no one is qualified to make those decision who flunks out on the simple questions.

The abortion question, on the other hand, is pretty simple and straightforward.

Killing babies is bad.

Period.

Anyone who believes otherwise has some very serious problems with his moral intuitions. And that's not the sort of person I want making important ethical decisions for our nation and the world.

Period.

Torture is another one of the simple questions.

Torture is bad. Period. And however "vague" the Geneva Convention might have been, I think we all know that any attempt to extract information by means of cruelty is torture.

Anyone who can't figure that one out is not qualified to be making the sorts of complex moral decisions involved in the presidency.

I am astounded at how secondary an issue this is for voters who would never dream of supporting a pro-abortion candidate.

In discussions on the candidates, I kept hearing "well, I don't like McCain because of a, b, and c, but I do respect him for his stance on torture."

Silly me, in my naivete, I thought they were just talking about the active way he's spoken out against torture, how through his own horrific experiences he's been able utterly dismantle the notion that torture can ever save lives. He knows from experience that the torturer has no means of distinguishing between true information and false information, and that the tortured has absolutely no motivation for giving accurate information rather than rattling off the names of all the players on the Red Sox.

No, they meant that unlike other prominent candidates in the Republican party, McCain would refrain from authorizing torture.

John McCain and Ron Paul call a spade a spade, and speak clearly against torture. You'd think that would be a given--I guess not. Huckabee appears to oppose torture, but he leaves an awful lot of wiggle room in his words. It's not an automatic disqualifier, but I'm a bit nervous about anyone who needs to defer to McCain's experience in order to decide that "enhanced interrogation techniques" involving simulated drowning qualify as torture. The world has truly gone mad when Huckabee's wishy-washy statements are notably praiseworthy, rather than a red flag. Perhaps he has made--or will make--clearer statements, without the loopholes. If so, that's great.

As for the others, I could care less about any other qualifications they may have. They may be superb businessmen, governors, and mayors, but they have no business running for president.

Period.

1.22.2008

The rose needs no adornment

The other day my wonderful husband took all three kids grocery shopping, providing me with a few hours of blissful peace and solitude--as well as a re-stocked pantry. And then he came back with flowers for me.

Yes, I'm very lucky.

Flowers brighten up a place so much, make everything so much happier. And I was pleasantly surprised to note that I didn't even have to constantly step in to prevent the wuggies from destroying them. I guess they must be growing up. They looked at the flowers, and smelled them, and that was it.

Until breakfast this morning.

September picked up her empty cereal bowl and balanced it upside-down atop one of the blooms, milk dripping down the petals and leaves.

"It's wearing a hat 'cause it's pretty!"

1.21.2008

Mr. Rogers for President. Part IV: Synthetic Nothing

Okay, this is the part where I actually start talking about the candidates.

Somewhere in the midst of this thought processes, I stumbled upon the following video:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=NY6UTnS6Z-A


Now, I always bought the conservative party line about marijuana, that its only effect was to make you high, and that even if sick people don't feel quite so miserable when they're high... well, that's hardly the best pain management solution. Medical marijuana is just the camel's nose under the tent, an attempt to legitimize recreational drug use among the sick, with the ultimate goal of legitimizing recreational drug use among the public in general.

But what Romney said was really weird, and made me stop and think.

"You have synthetic marijuana, don't you?"

Now, these medical marijuana patients spoke with just about all the candidates, and all the other candidates were able to look human suffering in the eye and give an honorable answer. The answers weren't always what the patients wanted to hear--almost all of the Republicans oppose medical marijuana--but everyone except Romney was able to interact with the patients in a respectful manner. Guiliani, for instance, said (approximate quote) "I'm not a doctor, so I can only go on what the FDA says, and the FDA does not recognize any legitimate medical use of marijuana." It's an awkward situation, but in the end, it's perfectly honorable to tell a sick man that you believe he's mistaken.

But that's not what Romney did. He didn't question whether marijuana was helping the man, he simply said that there were lots of other options legally available.

"You have synthetic marijuana, don't you?"

This struck me as very strange indeed. If, as the FDA says, there is no legitimate medical use for marijuana, why on earth would we have synthetic marijuana?

1.19.2008

Oooh! Pick me, pick me!

So Shannon had another poetry contest... limericks this time. And I'm a finalist! Whee!

So you should go take a look at all the fun poems...

and if you want to vote for "There was a young girl named September..."

Well, I sure wouldn't mind!

=)

1.15.2008

Mr. Rogers for President. Part III: Monopoly

Part I
Part II

So I started poking around, learning about hemp. Now there's an awful lot intensity and hyperbole floating around the topic, so I had to filter through an awful lot of contradictory, emotionally charged 'information.' But here's the part of the story that everyone seems to agree on:

Hemp has been around for a long time, as a staple food crop, as a fiber crop (paper, cloth, rope, etc.) and yes, as a hallucinogenic drug.

Even though they come from the same species, though, fiber hemp and drug hemp are different plants. Plants bred for high THC content yield lower-quality fibers, while plants bred for their long, strong fibers contain much less THC. In other parts of the world, where industrial hemp has been re-legalized, they have developed strains with only trace amounts of THC, but heavy amounts of CBD and other cannaboids with decidedly different effects. Smoke that stuff, and you may well get a nasty headache accompanied by severe nausea, but you won't get high. So hemp is distinct from marijuana, but inextricable related.

Anyway, fiber hemp was a very important crop in pre-industrial America. In fact, our founding fathers were hemp farmers. But as important inventions such as the cotton gin made other fibers easier to process, hemp remained extremely labor intensive, and fell by the wayside.

And here's where it gets a little more complicated and controversial. Among the numerous events of the early 20th century, the hemp decorticator was invented, bringing the hemp into the industrial age, the alcohol prohibition came and went, a process was developed for converting wood into paper pulp, and also for converting petroleum into synthetic fibers and plastics. And it was in this context that the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, and decimated the hemp industry.

Conspiracy theories abound. Was Anslinger motivated by a desire for a healthy drug-free society, or by his ties to the DuPont family? Did William Randolph Hearst publish Reefer Madness, et al (fabulous MST3K fodder, btw, though definitely not kid-appropriate) out of love for sensational stories, or in an attempt to protect his timber profits?

Who knows... and there's a sense in which it doesn't really matter. Whatever the intent, the result was to further concentrate the ability to produce wealth into the hands of the wealthy. Anyone can grow hemp. All you need is soil and sunshine, and you can produce food, fiber, and fuel. But with hemp out of the picture, if you want rope, or inexpensive durable cloth, or plastic, you are utterly dependent upon those who control the world's limited petroleum resources.

This is a troubling side effect domestically, but on a global level it was much, much worse.
After all, we don't rely on hemp as a food source. Under pressure from the US, nations such as Nepal sent their military in to destroy the crops of their poor farmers. In the mountainous regions, it is impossible to grow rice, or other staple grains--the people have always relied on hemp to provide food for their children.

We have pressured nations into slaughtering their own people.

I really don't care how well-meaning our intention... this is very bad indeed.

1.13.2008

Mr. Rogers for President. Part II: Energy and Aimless Action

I guess it all started with the energy bill. There's a lot of stuff in there, and for the most part, I'm not really qualified to comment. I do think these are important issues, but I just don't know a whole lot about them.

However, there were two elements of the bill on which I was actually informed enough to be confused.

One issue was light bulbs (I cherish my right to safe, high quality lighting that doesn't give me headaches, even if CFLs are more energy efficient), the other was ethanol. Now, I'm very much in favor of developing alternative forms of energy... but corn? Corn? This is not good. Corn is not a long term solution for our dependence on foreign oil, since the corn industry itself is so dependent on foreign oil. You can only grow so much corn in one place without using lots and lots of fertilizers. Petroleum based fertilizers. Poisonous petroleum based fertilizers, to be precise. And when it rains, all these fertilizers run off into the water supply, and ultimately into the ocean. As good as this stuff is for corn, it's deadly for children and for fish. Corn is actually a big problem.

Because of federal policies artificially favoring corn, America consumes a lot of corn. Not just in obviously corn-based foods, but in just about every processed food. We have a big sweet tooth, and high-fructose corn syrup is the sweetener of choice. Not because it's particularly good, or efficient to produce, but because thanks to federal subsidies, it's artificially cheap.

For better or for worse, corn is at the heart of almost everything we eat. It's what they feed the chickens that provide us with Grade A Extra Large eggs and boneless skinless chicken breasts. It's what they feed the cows that give us beef and milk. Corn: it's what's for dinner.

And now we run our cars on it, too. Which wouldn't be such a problem if corn was actually a good source of ethanol energy. But it isn't. Down in Brazil they use sugar cane to make ethanol, and they get 500%-800% more fuel out of it than they use in growing and processing the cane. It's a great way to harness solar energy. Corn, on the other hand, barely breaks even. Not even the most optimistic corn enthusiast dares estimate the returns at above 125%.

Of course, the energy bill doesn't specify that it has to be corn ethanol. In fact, it specifies that some of it has to be non-corn, and gives grants to help establish processing plants to convert cellulose into ethanol. All this is fine and dandy, but in the mean time, corn is what we're set up to do, and in order to meet these new quotas, corn ethanol production will have to increase by 1500%.

The world cheered because at long last, America was finally doing something about global warming--but as far as I could tell, whatever the impact of the increased industry standards, the ethanol portion of the bill was simply going to make matters worse.

I was discouraged, confused, and dismayed.

I was also curious. Hadn't I heard somewhere that industrial hemp could be used to make ethanol? And that it grows amazingly fast, without depleting the soil or requiring the use of fertilizers?

So I started poking around. Why don't we grow hemp?

Mr. Rogers for President. Part I: Aphoria

It's a strange thing indeed. Just a few short weeks ago, I remember saying that electibility was the biggest factor in my voting decision. While I favored Romney, I'd be happy if with any of the Republican candidates, just so long as they could win the general election. Except, of course, for Rudy Guiliani or Ron Paul.

And here I am this morning, positively quivering with excitement. 2008 is a year like no other. This year I have the opportunity to vote for Ron Paul. It'd be a miracle if he won the nomination--his support base is just far too bipartisan for that. But right now, I'm thinking that even so, I'd rather spend my primary vote in support of the ideals that Ron Paul stands for, than in selecting the Republican contender for the presidency. Any one of the candidates would be better than Clinton or Obama--may the best man win.

But as for me, I think the best man is Ron Paul.

A few weeks ago, I pretty much looked at each of the candidates as a smorgasboard of opinions, with the intention of voting for the candidate who agreed with me to the greatest degree.

But then I heard the candidate with whom I shared the most views, saying something that I thought I agreed with... and suddenly nothing made sense anymore.

Is it really wise for me to vote for someone who agrees with me in my ignorance?

Perhaps I should vote for someone more likely to be right than I am.

1.12.2008

Wherein I discover that a "G" rating is entirely too vague.

In celebration of the twins' fourth birthday, we took the kids to see the new Veggie movie.

You'd think that surely that would be safe to show your toddlers.

It's made by Christians, and it's rated G, for crying out loud. And nothing gets a G rating. Aren't most Pixar animations PG for some reason or other?

So we took our toddlers.

We were all very excited as we sat down in the theater. The wuggies were rather loud in joyous exultation at the prospect of watching a movie about pillaging vegetables, but then again, so was the rest of the audience--the place was packed out with toddlers and their accompanying adults.

It started out just fine. But then the part with the actual pirates came in.

Why, why, why didn't I have the sense to realize that I pirate movie could not possibly be toddler appropriate, no matter who made it?

Was the movie good? Was it funny? I have no idea. I (and nearly every other adult in the audience) spent the whole show trying to calm down a panic-struck child, whose precious heart was fluttering against my arms like a trapped bird. I waited far to long to take him out, because at every instant I was sure that the tension was just about to break, he could see it resolve and just be funny. Except that then they would start spinning down a drain, or giant rock-monsters would suddenly appear.

It was an utter fiasco, and we were far from alone in our mistake. The whole theater was full of whimpering, hyperventilating children.

You know, I really think that the rating system needs a new category--PG-3. Squeaking clean and entirely suitable for all person who understand that the evil pirate isn't really going to slice the cucumber. Or something like that.

Singled out.

Today is the birthday of all the wuggies...

except one.

She still gets to eat cake and ice cream, she still gets to come with us to see the new VeggieTales movie. Her day will be filled with lots of fun things as we celebrate her brothers.

But it's not her birthday.

And this is very hard to understand.

1.09.2008

Long time, no see.

It's been a while, and I apologize.

Folks keep asking me what happened to my blog.

Christmas break happened.

We had a lovely time as a family, a cozy quiet Christmas, a spectacular neighborhood fireworks display for New Years, and delightful trips to the zoo and children's museum.

And oh, it was wonderful, with Dadders around and doing so much around the house and with the kids, I actually had time to string a few thoughts together. Oh the bliss! I'd almost forgotten just how much I like thinking.

Which should have translated into lots of blogging, except that it was Christmastime, and although I wished I had all sorts of Christmassy thoughts, I just didn't. I was thinking about politics, and energy crises, and economics, and wars and rumors of wars, etc. etc. etc.

And that's not what I wanted my blog to be about--not at Christmastime, anyway. It was bad enough that I was yammering my husband's ear off. No need to disturb your holidays too.

But now the wise men have come before the Christ Child, laying down their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and the star is tucked away in a box in the garage.

'Tis the season for politics.

So don't say you haven't been warned.