Monday, December 28, 2009

Maybe polytheism is a better idea?

A former student sent this round to me. Interesting stuff.

October 23, 2007
Mary Lefkowitz,

[Mary Lefkowitz is professor emerita at Wellesley College and the author of "Greek Gods, Human Lives" and the forthcoming "History Lesson."]

Gods, or God?

Prominent secular and atheist commentators have argued lately that religion "poisons" human life and causes endless violence and suffering. But the poison isn't religion; it's monotheism. The polytheistic Greeks didn't advocate killing those who worshiped different gods, and they did not pretend that their religion provided the right answers. Their religion made the ancient Greeks aware of their ignorance and weakness, letting them recognize multiple points of view.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

A card from a friend: Greetings from Krampus

Ho ho ho...

Two Christmas presents and a lump of coal.

Hi everyone,

Just as Christmas landed, St. Nick dropped off a couple of Christmas presents for our local library and the citizens group [nice] which, together this year, stood up to some Scrooge's who wanted the library to censor its catalog [naughty].

Do you remember when Santa used to call out naughty children for their behaviour, you know, before our advertising culture started eliminating any unpleasant consequences for being mean?

Me, too.

And so, Saturday's column.

Naughty or nice?
Library issue brings St. Nick & Krampus to town

“He’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice ....”

In America, most people get Christmas presents even when they’ve been naughty but, back in the Old County, across Europe, St. Nick is accompanied by a more sinister companion. St. Nick makes sure good kids get what they deserve – candy and toys – while his companion makes sure the naughty kids get what they deserve, too. Depending on the country, naughty kids can get lumps of coal or even be whipped.

That’s Old School.

This year St. Nick brought some great presents to the nice kids in town: specifically, the nice kids at the West Bend Community Memorial Library and in the West Bend activists for Free Speech who were awarded two national accolades for – well, for doing the right thing. They deserved ’em, too. It’s hard to do the right thing when it isn’t popular with some of the other kids.

The library was awarded the 2009 Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, given by the faculty of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the West Bend Activists for Free Speech, the association of citizens who banded together to help the library stand up to the anti-gay pro-censorship lobby, were selected by the Wisconsin ACLU to receive this year’s William Gorham Rice Civil Libertarian of the Year Award.

William Gorham Rice, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, was one of the principal founders of the ACLU. It’s not surprising that a UWMadison law professor would help establish the ACLU, but Professor Rice was a man whose understanding of justice was matched by an equally great character. Before his law school days, William Rice was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his service as an ambulance driver during World War I. The West Bend Community Memorial Library and our neighbors in West Bend Activists for Free Speech were both on the battlefield this past year, making sure to keep our civil liberties alive and well – so this award, like all presents from St. Nick, fits perfectly.

So much for that candy. Now, what about the coal?

It turns out there are all sorts of options. In France, for instance, St. Nick’s companion is called Pere Fouettard (usually translated as Whipping Father, although in eastern France he’s their idea of the bogeyman). He brings a buffet of special treats for naughty children, ranging from coal all the way up to flogging. Seriously, flogging. One early version of the Pere Fouettard story explains that he and his wife were inn keepers who murdered three boys while robbing them. St. Nick discovered the crime, resurrected the boys, and then forced Le Pere into service to atone for his crime. Next door in the Netherlands, the Dutch have Black Peter and in Germany there’s Knecht Ruprecht, whose main function is to scare naughty kids until they start behaving themselves. We could probably use him in Washington. The variations on this theme become more grisly as we move closer to the Alps. Bavaria has Hans Muff, Pelzebock, Drapp, and Buzeberg. In Switzerland he's called Schmutzli.

The scariest of all is Krampus, from Austria, who is sort of a half-goat, half-devil character. I’ll bet he keeps bad kids ducking for cover. I know we like everything to be sugary and happy but I’m one of those people who liked the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales (you know, the unexpurgated version in which Cinderella has her wicked sisters dragged behind horses afterward). They have a kind of psychological balance missing from the diabetic coma of our current, Disneyized, high-fructose corn syrup version of American reality.

Anyway, in the spirit of preserving the wisdom of the past, let’s put Krampus to work. If the nice kids won national awards for doing the right thing, even when it wasn't popular, then who should get the coal? Or the whipping?

This year, Krampus needs to visit the naughty folks who attempted to sneak past the U.S. Constitution, and decades of Supreme Court rulings, and force a narrow and partisan morality on the rest of their neighbors by asking a governmental agency (the public library) to censor material – all behind the cynical rhetoric of protecting children. This year, they get coal in their stockings. Let’s hope that next year St. Nick can bring them treats instead.

Krampus will be watching them.

In the meantime, those on the nice list can take joy in these gifts of freedom and pride in the neighbors who kept those gifts alive for the rest of us.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Information really is beautiful: Climate Change Deniers vs The Consensus

This argument is so much less exciting when there's actual information on the table.

Climate Change Deniers vs The Consensus

And just one for Al, "sigh."

A mental health break: some perspective.

The Known Universe by AMNH


10 Ways to Screw Over the Corporate Jackals

Just a satisfying end of the year list of possible resolutions:

10 Ways to Screw Over the Corporate Jackals Who've Been Screwing You.


Worker productivity way up. Wages, no. Who wins?

From Thom Hartmann
Professor Thomas Kochan at MIT's Sloan School of Management is reporting that economic productivity of the American worker rose by 8.1 percent in the third quarter, but pay did not. Instead, at this holiday time - and pretty much continuously since Reagan declared war on working people in 1981- wages are stagnating and workers are stressed out with larger workloads while fearing for their jobs.
Professor Kochan's latest opinion piece includes:
Wage data are equally unacceptable. Average worker incomes remained flat or fell during the recession. Nor did they grow over the seven years of the past economic recovery. Indeed, workers have been getting a declining share of the productivity they helped create for the past three decades. Because consumption accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy, a wage-less recovery is a weak and unsustainable recovery.

Why pay workers more when it cuts into CEO compensation?


Tea Partiers initiate spiritual warfare, but worry about friendly fire.

Oh golly, this is where we live.

Tea Partier Calls C-SPAN, Worried His Prayers For Byrd To Die Got Inhofe Instead

"'Our small tea bag group here in Waycross, we got our vigil together and took Dr. Coburn's instructions and prayed real hard that Sen. Byrd would either die or couldn't show up at the vote the other night,' the caller said."

"How hard did you pray because I see one of our members was missing this morning. Did it backfire on us? One of our members died? How hard did you pray senator? Did you pray hard enough?" he continued, his voice breaking.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wisconsin supreme court dances with them wot bought 'em.

WMC hegemony now established on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Nice nice, very nice.

A Warped View From The Bench

But I'm even more concerned by the original prompt: a guest editorial by Justice Roggensack that included the following:
Second, when a citizen votes in a judicial election, he or she exercises a right guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Protecting the First Amendment rights of all voters to cast votes that could not later be cancelled by the acts of others was a primary concern of the court in the rule that was enacted.
I was not under the impression that our right to vote was guaranteed by the First Amendment, which reads:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
It is possible that this particular First Amendment is not in the Constitution currently under revision by WMC.


When the government asks for increased efficiency?


In Risky Move, GM to Run Plants Around Clock

Even Toyota thinks this is a bad idea. Is it possible the Obama administration auto task force hasn't read Demming?

On the other hand, wouldn't it be a spectacular irony if a supposedly liberal government asked for and got increased efficiency from business?


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cornel West's new memoire.

I always try to listen, carefully, to Professor West and I wish I could be less sympathetic toward his critique of Mr. Obama.

West: I was ready because I draw a radical distinction between the symbolic and the substantial. As a critical supporter of Barack Obama, engaged in over 50 events for him from Iowa to Ohio, I knew that at a symbolic level something could happen that was unprecedented. And it did happen. At that symbolic level, I can understand the tears, I can understand the jubilation, I can understand the euphoria. But I always knew there was a sense in which he, now heading the American empire, was tied to the shadow government, tied to CIA, FBI, tied to the establishment waiting to embrace him. It was clear when he chose his economic team, when he chose his foreign policy team, he was choosing, of course, the recycled neo-liberals and recycled neo-Clintonites that substantially you're going to end up with these technocratic policies that consider poor people and working people as afterthoughts. Beginning with bankers, beginning with elites.

But I'm still going to give him his full year... which ends on January 20th.

Some legalize-medical-marijuana follow-ups:

Two points of interest:

Seattle's former chief of police thinks we should go further with legalization and, it turns out that, depending on your economic class, different rules apply when it comes to medical marijuana use.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chumming for Payday Lenders. Sharks found in West Bend.

Hi everyone,

We now have 8 payday lenders in our little town of 30,000.

Loan sharking is illegal, but loan shark lobbyists, apparently, aren't as effective at manipulating legislation.

Saturday's column

Sharks found in city

If you loan money, at usurious rates, to people down on their luck who can’t pay it back, which forces them to take out yet another loan to cover the first one and, thus, leap headfirst into a death spiral of debt – and you do it illegally – you’re called a loan shark. If you do it legally, you’re called a payday lender. It’s time to see payday lenders for what they really are.

The Payday Loan industry says they’re only performing a service for people down on their luck. The rules governing these transactions are clearly posted and the industry claims that everyone who takes out one of these loans understands exactly much interest they’re paying.

It works like this: let’s say you get strapped for cash a week before payday. You can walk into a local storefront and get a loan for the amount of your next paycheck. Sounds handy, right? Sure. Let’s say your paycheck is for $350. You go down to the payday lender with a postdated personal check. You fill in some paperwork, pay a fee of (on average) $60, and walk out with $290. So far so good. $60 is a big chunk of your paycheck, but of you need the cash you’re willing to take the hit.

In a perfect world you'd get your real paycheck a week later and pay off the loan.

The industry makes it’s big money by betting on imperfection.

What typically happens next? People run out of money before their next check comes in so they need to take out another payday loan -- in which case they’re now trapped paying $60 every couple of weeks to float what is, in effect, a perpetual advance. Worse yet, let’s say they need some of their real paycheck for rent or food. The check given to the payday lender now bounces: bad for the borrower but great for the lender. The lender now charges you a late fee. To avoid defaulting, the borrower takes out another loan and pays another $60 fee. And so on.

The Center for Responsible Lending calls this “the debt trap” of payday lending.

Payday lenders say publicly that they provide short term loans to help people get over short term financial difficulties, but the unspoken reality is that 90 percent of their profit comes from lenders trapped in long term debt – and at rates that would make real loan sharks blush.

But why on earth would anyone get into this situation? The easy explanation would be something out of 1950’s detective movie: gambling or drugs. The truth is that most payday borrowers are usually folks at the bottom of the income ladder: the working poor and those on social security-- people living close to the edge who are desperate enough to try anything. According to Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institutions, that desperation usually ends up costing borrowers, on average, an annual percentage rate of 542.2%.

Once there’s blood in the water, more sharks always start circling. In 1995, there were two payday lenders in Wisconsin. By August 2009, there were over 500 -- 64% of which, by the way, are owned by out of state interests. West Bend, population 30,000, now has eight.

Payday lending is being opposed across the country by groups including Wisconsinites for Responsible Lending, the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumer Law Center, and the Center for Responsible Lending. Closer to home Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) has a bill to limit interest rates to 36 percent. He’s even drawn support from across the political spectrum, from Lena Taylor to our own Glenn Grothman. But it’s an up hill battle: the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign projects that the payday loan industry is spending as much as $500,000 on over two dozen lobbyists to stop this bill. The WDC reports that the payday loan industry gave a record $140,200 to the governor and to legislative candidates in 2008.

Greed is an equal opportunity employer: six of the top seven campaign contribution recipients were Democrats. I guess we’ll find out how many votes payday loan money can buy.

John C. Bersia in his 2000 Pulitzer Prize winning editorial, coined the phrase “legal loan sharks” to describe payday lenders. Calling payday lenders “legal loan sharks” is an obvious comparison, but it does a disservice to real loan sharks. Real loan sharks only charge, on average, 150%. More importantly, real loan sharks are often willing to negotiate about repayment. Not so with the legal variety.

Eleven states have already begun to reel in these predators. Its’ time for Wisconsin to join them.


ps. This is a typo-free version of the column that appeared in the paper. Grading finals has a price.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Fuzzy" Climate math is only fuzzy when you don't do the math.

We've been having an interesting conversation around the university lately regarding the sophistication of economic and politics motivated distortions on issues like climate change and creationism.

One of the best bits of industry anti-green in the last few years ("these aren't the droids you're looking for.... don't pay any attention to environmental deterioration") was a piece George Will even swallowed: the claim that a Hummer is greener than a Toyota Prius.

It turns out there was nothing remotely fuzzy about the math here since the advertisers who put out the "report" didn't actually do any math.

The Pacific Institute did however.

And so on.


West Bend Community Memorial Library racks up more awards.

Fighting for the freedoms of West Bend citizens has generated yet another award for the West Bend Library.

Thanks to Retiring Guy for picking up the story:

Congratulations to the West Bend Community Memorial Library


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mental health break: Sumerians Look On In Confusion As Christian God Creates World

As always, The Onion scoops the competition.

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As Christian God Creates World

"I do not understand," reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. "A booming voice is saying, 'Let there be light,' but there is already light. It is saying, 'Let the earth bring forth grass,' but I am already standing on grass."

"Everything is here already," the pictograph continues. "We do not need more stars."


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Meet the Billionaire Brothers Funding the Right-Wing War on Obama

When the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity are all bankrolled by the same guys, what looks like grassroots turns out to be hardwood floors with servants to keep them properly polished.

Meet the Billionaire Brothers Funding the Right-Wing War on Obama
The Cato Institute -- founded by Charles -- as well as other Koch-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, produced a blizzard of reports distorting the stimulus and calling for a return to Bush-style tax cuts to combat the recession. As their fronts were battling the stimulus, David's Americans for Prosperity (AFP) spent the opening months of the Obama presidency placing calls and helping to organize the very first "tea party" protests. AFP, founded in 1984 by David and managed day to day by the astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips, has spent much of the year mobilizing "tea party" opposition to health reform, clean energy legislation, and financial regulations.

Glenn Grothman: still wrong for denying real sex education.

When fear replaces clear headedness, you get this: religious groups that don't believe in evolution attempting to foist a half-baked health policy on the rest of us.

Message from Sen. Grothman concerning SEX ED bill
It is vital for all sincere Christians to call their State Senators at this time and tell them to vote against Senate Bill 324/Assembly Bill 458. It would also be a good idea to call your State Representative and find out how they voted. If they voted for AB 458, ask them to publicly renounce their vote.

Glenn has been politically correct [for his species] and scientifically wrong on this topic for years now [check here, here, here, and here]. What we can be sure of, should this bit of revanchist puritanism pass is, ironically, an increase in unwanted teenage pregnancies and, thus, an increase in the number of abortions.

We can also rely on an increase in the rates of sexual transmitted diseases among young people who, unable to practice sex responsibly, will resort to the kind of irresponsible sexual activity that characterizes anyone in the throes of the dangerous, but traditional, hormone rush of adolescence.

I don't know what kind of Christian wants to increase the misery of people, but apparently those are the people to whom Glenn is addressing his advertising here.

And I wish he'd quit it.

As I said nearly a year ago: For more info on our, terrifying, third-world levels of teenage pregnancy, follow the link to the Guttmacher Institute.


How much cow manure is enough?

Hi everyone,

Wisconsin has struggled to protect it's small family farms from the kind of industrial dairy and farming operations that would (will) put them out of business, but when people show up with $60 million, zoning always seems to bend -- in this case, in the direction of damaging the environment both above and below the ground.

Saturday's column.

How much cow manure is enough?

Bigger isn’t always better.

You may have caught wind of the expansion under way at the Rosendale Dairy up in Fond du Lac county. The winds of change are blowing, and they smell terrible. Rosendale is expanding its dairy operations to 8,000 cows, an expansion that makes Rosendale the largest concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the state.

The bad smell starts with a misrepresentation. When you hear the word dairy, don’t you think of small farms with lush fields of alfalfa and tidy milking stalls where each farmer knows each cow? Me, too. Don’t be misled: Rosendale Dairy isn’t a farm, it’s a $60 million factory. Here’s the real poop.

Any time a farm goes over 700 cows, it has to get a permit and meet a set of state Department of Natural Resources guidelines for manure management. If standing downwind from 700 cows sounds rough, imagine 8,000. That many cows produce about 92 million gallons of manure every year. This works out to 12,298,611 cubic feet, enough manure to cover a typical football field to a depth of 213.5 feet. Imagine Lambeau Field filled with cow manure to the height of a 20-story building. More simply, according to the Wisconsin Farmer’s Union, Rosendale will produce as much raw sewage as the city of Green Bay – except cow manure doesn’t go through a processing plant before being discharged into the environment. The CAFO plans to to spread it over 5,631 acres of local cropland; that’s 16,338 gallons per acre per year. The smell isn’t the only impending nightmare for people in that part of the state. The potential run-off pollution and groundwater contamination are enough to make you give up cheese curds.

There are two tricks to spreading manure without contaminating the ground water. The first, of course, is to spread it on ground that isn't leaky -- that won't let the poop into the ground water.

Strike one!

What kind of ground is underneath this 16,338 gallons of manure per acre per year? The report says “thin sediments overlying dolomite.” Translated into technical English this means: Doh!. Dolomite is typically so full of cracks that it might as well have pipes running directly into the groundwater. The scientifically sedate language of the report states: “Groundwater flow in the dolomite is via fractures and bedding planes with very little attenuation of contaminants.” “Very little attenuation” means the poop washes directly into the aquifer without much filtration. Next stop? Your faucet.

The second trick is proper monitoring – you need to keep track of whether dumping this much manure is contaminating the groundwater so you can stop before too many people are affected – and here the regulations are toothless.

Strike two!

The state permit requires only self-monitoring. Rosendale Dairy, Inc. is simply asked to “report periods of non-compliance.” In fact, no groundwater monitoring is planned at the site at all and, even though the report says the site falls within state guidelines, the DNR recommends people in the vicinity have their wells periodically inspected. There's a comfort.

In a final irony, one that only state bureaucracies mixed with corporate lobbyists could produce, Rosendale will have to provide portable toilets for their human employees -- since the county does not issue permits for either holding tanks or mound systems on sites like this one. Ninety-two million gallons of cow manure pumped out over a geology likely to contaminate the ground water? No problem. Sewage from the 70 humans slated to work at this factory? "You'll need to bring in port-a-pottys. We wouldn't want to pollute anything."

More seriously, despite DNR optimism, people have good reason to be nervous. CAFO water quality management has some lousy precedents in other parts of the United States and, even in other parts of Wisconsin. In New Mexico, their Environment Department reports that fully two-thirds of its 150 dairies are contaminating local groundwater as a result of leaky containment ponds or because they’re spreading the manure too heavily on local fields. In Morrison (south of Green Bay in Brown County), over 100 wells were polluted within a few months of the first CAFOs opening there. Meanwhile, back in Fond du Lac County, Rosendale has already been caught spreading manure too close to established wells, in violation of their permit.

Something smells in Fond du Lac County. It’s the smell of Wisconsin’s family farmers drowning in... -- in industrial agriculture.

Strike three?

You make the call.

* * *

A note of passage:

Alderman Terry Vrana announced he’d be leaving office this week. Mr. Vrana was my alderman and, even though I found myself at the other end of the political spectrum on nearly every issue, I remained – despite everything else – indebted to Mr. Vrana on two counts: his military service in Vietnam and his stinginess with the taxpayers’ money. For this we owe Mr. Vrana an abiding respect and our thanks for his service to this community.

One final and compelling detail is that CAFOs pay about $250 for their waste management permits, but that the state has already spent over $100,000 on the process -- another example of working taxpayers subsidizing investment bankers.

For more fascinating reading, check out the environmental impact study.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Global warming still on.

From our friends at Grassroots Northshore

Conservatives are crowing that they have struck gold, claiming that the emails prove global warming is a hoax. You might have heard this from your right leaning friends, coworkers and relatives, who have probably sent you emails of their own.

1) The crisis is more undeniable than ever.

2) The hacked emails offer no proof that the research is a hoax.

3) Even a conservative writer finds no evidence that there was a conspiracy to climate hide data.

4) The Union of Concerned Scientists lets loose on a broadside against the climate changes deniers over the stolen emails.

5) And sorry right wing, big business is jumping on the sustainability bandwagon.

I know. We keep overlooking the benefits of global warming, like.... fire ants in Wisconsin. Oh, and aligators.


Tea Party Patriot Wants Mandatory Christmas Carols In Public Schools

Of course.

Merry Hyatt, Tea Party Patriot, Wants Mandatory Christmas Carols In Public Schools


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Time for Real Republicans to return their party to coffee drinking?

I've been hoping that some old school conservatives would take their party back from the tea-party fringe, but maybe it's too late.

Next up, neo-con political correctness and a new Scarlet Letter?

Has the GOP Collapse Begun? Hypothetical "Tea Party" Outpolls Republicans

Time for Real Republicans to return their party to coffee drinking?

I've been hoping that some old school conservatives would take their party back from the tea-party fringe, but maybe it's too late.

Next up, neo-con political correctness and a new Scarlet Letter?

Has the GOP Collapse Begun? Hypothetical "Tea Party" Outpolls Republicans

Monday, December 07, 2009

And something fun for our local Eagle Forum.

Hi everyone,

I know the Eagle Forum believes that sexual preference is a choice so, for them, the universe provide this: Gay No More?

The delusion of Free Markets.

Something for our local anti-tax cabal.

How Free-Market Delusions Destroyed the Economy

A clear new look at the free-market fantasy.

Mr. Sensenbrenner traveling in Europe on lobbyist dime.

From: Rules for Congress Curb but Don’t End Junkets -

Nice to know Mr. Sensenbrenner doesn't have to pay to travel in Europe anymore...

Some morsels:
Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Wisconsin Republican, toured a prince’s vineyard and castle in Liechtenstein and spent an afternoon at a ski resort in the Alps — all at the expense of a group of European companies.
While lobbyists are not supposed to pay for a lawmaker’s travel, for example, Mr. Sensenbrenner’s $14,708 trip to Liechtenstein and Germany in 2009 was organized by a nonprofit group whose president is a lobbyist. It was underwritten by European companies that, in many cases, lobby in the United States.
When Mr. Sensenbrenner and Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, traveled to Liechtenstein in February to learn about its banking system, they attended business meetings. But they and their wives also visited the Malbun ski resort, stayed at a first-class hotel and toured the wine cellar at the prince of Liechtenstein’s historic vineyard, according to their itinerary.

The cost of the trip — $14,708 for Mr. Sensenbrenner and his wife alone — was picked up by a nonprofit group called the International Management and Development Institute. Just since 2005, International Management has paid for 34 trips to Europe for lawmakers and staff members, totaling more than $400,000, including five for Mr. Sensenbrenner to Germany, Liechtenstein, Norway and France.
“Many organizations that are seeking to educate Congressional leaders on a range of topics receive money from a variety of sources to better enable them to do so, without any cost to taxpayers,” Wendy Riemann, a spokeswoman for Mr. Sensenbrenner, said in a written statement.

Ain't that nice. Some of us had to pay for our own education.

Good thing we can all be sure that the $14,708 won't have any effect on the vote of someone as wealthy as Mr. Sensenbrenner.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

High School Grads Twice As Likely To Be Jobless Than College Grads – and Right-Wingers are Profiting From Their Pain

Another reason for the anti-tax hooligans to prevent people from attending college.

High School Grads Twice As Likely To Be Jobless Than College Grads – and Right-Wingers are Profiting From Their Pain

It's usually about the money -- for some.

It's time to legalize medical marijuana

Hi everyone,

Thanks to Andy Montgomery for kick starting this column.

Saturday's column.

Shedding light on marijuana bogeyman

For decades, Jacki Rickert has suffered with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a defect in the development of connective tissue that results in weak joints subject to easy dislocation) and Advanced Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (also known as complex regional pain syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes chronic pain in the skin, joints, and bones).

Both illnesses are debilitating; neither is curable.

In May 1990, Jacki was approved by the federal government to receive medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Investigational New Drug Program. The state of Wisconsin followed suit in December 1990. It’s 19 years later and no medical marijuana was provided. Ever since, Jacki has wondered: “Is my medicine legal yet?”

Medical marijuana bills have been introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature since 2001 but, this year, a bill called the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act has been put before the Wisconsin Legislature, introduced in Senate Bill 368 and Assembly Bill 554.

The question is, will Wisconsin finally join the 13 other states with medical marijuana laws on their books – including Michigan where, just last year, a similar bill was passed? It’s possible. This year, Jacki may finally get the medical marijuana thenpresidential candidate Bill Clinton promised her in 1990.

Rep. Pocan, a sponsor of the Assembly bill, explained that the Obama administration’s recent change in enforcement policy and a turnabout on marijuana by the American Medical Association (which now supports reviewing marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 controlled substance in order to begin serious, medically driven research) make passing the bill more likely than in previous years.

In addition to the recent endorsement by the AMA and the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Nurses Association came out strongly in favor of the 2005 version, introduced into the Assembly by then-Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh).

Not everyone in Madison is happy. Rep. Leah Vukmir, although a nurse, finds herself opposing both the AMA and her own professional association when she claims to be worried about safety issues. While still chair of the Health and Healthcare Reform Committee (now in the hands of John Richards, D-19th district, a former volunteer with Mother Teresa), she told the press that “she believes it is better for patients to use medications that have been approved or may soon be available than to have people grow their own marijuana.”

The safety of “approved medications” is no longer comforting. Concerns about the “safety” of marijuana might be prudent, but are a bit ludicrous when you consider that our pharmaceutical industry is currently conducting the greatest unregulated experiment in altering consciousness in the history of our species. Think of the children popping Ritalin and Adderall like Skittles. Think of the recalls and class action suits under way, all the result of “approved medications.” The same federal agencies that approved those drugs listed marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. To put that into perspective, PCP and methamphetamine are Schedule II.

Makes me wonder whether the people who made this decision were high at the time.

The safety issue becomes even clearer when you consider that, in 2000, adverse reactions to prescription drugs killed around 32,000 Americans, aspirin (yes, aspirin) killed nearly 7,600, and marijuana killed – nobody. No scientific literature links marijuana with mortality.

But hey, safety and science be damned. Show me the money.

In 2004, when William F. Buckley supported legalization in the pages of the National Review, he noted that the approximately 700,000 arrests for possession each year – generally for small amounts, not trafficking – cost the U.S. taxpayer $10 billion to $15 billion. More remarkable is how much tax revenue medical marijuana could generate. In 2005 economists at Harvard estimated that legalization would save “$7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition,“ $5.3 billion of which would go back to state and local governments. They also estimated that legalization could generate $6.2 billion annually if marijuana were taxed at rates similar to alcohol or tobacco. In the state-by-state breakdown, Wisconsin stood to make $13 million to $15 million a year. That’s a lot of new kindergarten teachers.

While Rep. Vukmir may remain opposed for what must be religious, if not scientific reasons, her most conservative colleague in the state Senate has not joined her. Sen. Glenn Grothman, when asked about the bill reportedly said he has not made up his mind yet, “but is inclined to vote for it unless someone gives him a good reason not to. ... It wouldn’t shock me if I vote for it,” Grothman said.

It is a pleasure to see Sen. Grothman agreeing with real conservatives, like the late Mr. Buckley, who well understood that you don’t make a bogeyman go away by burying yourself even deeper under the quilts of your own ignorance. You make the bogeyman go away by turning the lights on.

For an interesting read on all of this, check out MAPS.