Union Station at eight in the morning on a weekday is quite a sight to behold. A magnificent free flowing zoo where thousands of people go each day to get their fill of anger and frustration, ready to destroy each other at the drop of a hat in the name of punching the clock on time. It takes the skill of a seasoned vet to navigate your way from the Metra platforms to the main exits on either Jackson or Canal streets, and should some unfortunate rookie stop mid-stride to correct his bearings, he would immediately be trampled under-foot, and any cries for assistance would be drowned out by a million cell phone conversations. If he is lucky, he will be scrapped off the floor by some lowly janitor just before the start of the evening rush hour; an event so horrific in nature that even the true nine-to-five warriors find it hard pressed to make it out completely unscathed. It is a daily running of the bulls, a brutish place that is void of compassion, manners, and any sort of humanistic ambiance altogether; this place was the turnstile to hell.
Having made this trip hundreds of times as a child, due to health insurance restrictions limiting my family’s choices in doctors and forcing us to travel from the suburbs to downtown Chicago just for a check-up, I knew exactly how to deal with these animals. Stand up straight, walk fast, jump right in to the river of bodies, and ride the wave. Every once in a while you will see a bruised salmon attempting to swim upstream. Rest assured, it will be the last time you’ll ever see that poor, lost soul, as fighting the current in a place like this was a fatal mistake. I adjusted my tie, checked my watch, and jumped in.
I washed out near the stairs that led up to Canal Street, and climbed the marble mountain up and out to find a cab. This was usually a bit of a struggle; however luck seemed to be on my side this morning, as I walked through the doors of the station and into the back of a cab without skipping a beat. The ride to the hotel was hampered by typical morning traffic in the city, which is just about the worst thing that you could possibly imagine. My cab driver seemed afflicted with a permanent rage for anyone in a cross-walk. If they had been sprinting it would not have been fast enough for him, as I could hear him muttering in his native tongue what I assumed were curse words, as his tone was too violent for them not to be.
After about fifteen minutes of Mario Andretti-esq maneuvering and near-death experiences for about a dozen or so pedestrians (and probably myself as well), we arrived at the hotel on the grand strip of city that is State Street; where poverty and excessive wealth are mixed together to paint a confusing mural across the streets and buildings that is exclusively apropos to the current state of income inequality in this country. It is murder to the mind of one who actually cares about these sorts of things, and it requires the right kind of eyes to see it so vividly. Three cheers to the ignorant, sleepy wanderers who have not the time nor patience to notice the small cracks in our society, for it will not seem so helpless of a situation to them, when the walls finally come crashing down right on top of their heads.
The Consulate is a fancy mainstay in modern hotels, located on the 600 block of State Street. The lobby was large and incredibly acoustic, with several off-white marble support pillars that matched the floor on either side of the lobby. Bellhops in red and black jackets ran luggage to and fro in an almost cartoonish manner. The twelve story building was hollow at its core; from the second floor you could see all the way up to the large triangular skylights on the roof twelve stories up. Every floor was exposed with only a small, hip-height railing bordering each floor, which gave the place the feel of a huge upscale motel. This was certainly not the place to eat a bunch of mushrooms and go running through the halls wearing nothing but Chuck Taylors and a large American flag as a cape. This trip, I realized, was going to require an unprecedented amount of composure. I was going to have to dig deep for this one.
As I stood right inside the main entrance, I could see up to the second floor gallery where the breakfast reception for the conference was taking place. “Sweet Jesus, it’s happening already,” I muttered to myself as I approached the front desk to check in. As I walked up, I noticed a well-trained plastic smile come across the face of the desk clerk, the very kind that comes complimentary with every two-year hospitality degree from Anywhereville Junior College. I told her that I was here for the conference, and was directed to the second floor, where I would find the check-in table and acquire my credentials for the next two days. I thanked the young lady for her direction and proceeded up the short, winding staircase to the second floor.
I worked my way through to the roped off area, marked with “private event” placards, of the second floor gallery which was to be used as a networking area between the presentations that would take place in the main and satellite conference rooms that bordered the gallery. I had been to two of these types of conferences prior to this one, so I recognized a few faces. Though as I passed through and garnered a few harsh glares laced with uncertainty, I realized most of them hadn’t the slightest clue as to who I was. Good, I thought. Incognito is probably the best way to go about this sort of thing. Stand up straight, shoulders back, all you have to do is look like you know what you’re doing. I kept my eyes dead ahead, not really looking at anyone in particular, but looking at everyone all at once. I gently shouldered my way through the crowd and over to the check-in table. The inevitable could only be put off for so long.
I had seen the woman working the table before, at last year’s conference, I think. I remembered her as a cheerful woman, slightly overweight with short, light brown hair. I couldn’t remember her name to save my life, but luckily she, much like everyone else at the conference, was wearing a name badge to help grease the wheels of peer networking. Kathy Menendez was what her badge read. I looked up with a smile—mine now feeling just as plastic as everyone else’s—and re-introduced myself. As her eyes met mine, I could instantly feel that something was off with this woman; this was not the jubilant, inviting face I remembered from before. She seemed severely on edge, a permanent frown glued to her face, and it seemed as if that was the happiest expression that she could muster. Her composure was on the verge of total collapse, that much I could tell. Watch out for this one, I thought as she handed me my name tag and itinerary, she looks as if she might blow at any second. Before moving on I asked Kathy if there was a coat rack or someplace I could leave my jacket. She half looked up and pointed her finger toward the middle of the second floor gallery. “There’s a coat rack over there.” She mumbled with a small quiver in her monotone voice that sounded almost lost, as if she had been hypnotized. I turned and scanned the area, but found no such rack. No bother arguing, I thought, we’ve gotten all we can out of this one. I later learned through improvised reconnaissance that the coat rack was actually located in the main conference room, nowhere near where poor Kathy had directed me. Is it possible that she just misspoke? Sure it is, but considering other things, like the fact that she should have been doling out that kind of information all morning, and her general demeanor suggesting some sort of personal trauma was afoot, I quickly came to the conclusion that this woman was surely about to crack.
By this time there was only twenty minutes left for the free breakfast, so I decided to help myself to some much needed grub on the company’s dime. The food was being served buffet-style, with a small omelet bar and a chef taking limited requests. I grabbed a tray and jumped in line behind a pair of gentlemen who were clearly on their second helping, their plates still covered in maple syrup from the previous serving of pancakes. Their waste lines suggested that this was more like their eighth or ninth serving and still probably nowhere near capacity. I loaded my plate up with some soggy scrambled eggs, hash browns, and covered it all with as much bacon as I could fit on my plate. I had no intention of eating that much bacon and my action had garnered several questionable looks from the people behind me in line. I don’t know why I went for that much, but it was probably the result of some quick math done by my American brain: If Ryan goes to breakfast and he wants some bacon, and then Ryan finds out that the meal is free, how many strips of bacon does Ryan eat? All of it. The answer is all of the bacon.
I grabbed my pork-heavy plate and quickly found a seat at an empty table at the back of the room. According to the itinerary, this was to be a “Breakfast with the Sponsors”, a meet-and-greet between the financial advisors and the wholesalers that were representing the fifteen or twenty-so companies that had generously paid real money to help make this conference happen. The wholesalers slinked around the room, popping into any open seat at an advisor or F.P.’s table, all of them practically sweating business cards and promotional material. Even though we would be told continuously over the course of the next two days that we should thank the sponsors for their generosity, I knew better. These companies gave forth such generosity with a “you have to spend money to make money” attitude in mind. They have paid all this money to put on this glamorous conference in Downtown Chicago with the goal of getting all these financial professionals in one place, and then unleashing their sales pitches for their financial products on them en masse. Wholesalers are the pick-up artists of the financial world; it’s simply just a numbers game to them.
I set my coat and my bag on each of the other chairs at my table to ensure that I got through this meal totally free of unwanted conversation. I hadn’t had any coffee yet, so my ability to fake my way through a droll chat with a stranger was lacking to say the least. As I ate in solitude, I scanned the room, taking in the sights and sounds of the people I would be spending the next two days with. If I have to say one thing about the financial professional community as a whole, it certainly is not very diverse. The strong majority of the crowd was extremely stereotypical; white men, thirty-five to sixty years old, most of them in the beginning stages of balding or waist deep in it, wearing either suit jackets or sweater-vests over their fine-pressed twenty dollar Costco dress shirts. The women were few and far between, adorned in Hillary Clinton style pant suits and bad haircuts that attempted to make them look younger. There seemed to be a healthy split of the women between financial advisors and administrative assistants, but it was easy to tell the difference between the two. The administrative assistants never said a word, and the advisors never shut up.
I could tell that they were all wearing masks, covering up their true nature of their personality In favor of one that sold more mutual funds. They had eyes like hammerhead sharks, constantly searching for any form of prey from which they could suck a few more pennies from. Every line sounded well-rehearsed, every handshake a little too firm; this was the perfect profession for a sociopath, and at this point, I was convinced that I was absolutely surrounded by them. Simply being around these people was going to take some getting used to.
It wasn’t that I thought that they were all bad people based on passive judgments from just beyond my breakfast plate; it was that I had no way of knowing who these people really were. There was just no way to tell, every conversation was far too thick with financial jargon and sector-related colloquialisms to navigate without the help of a social machete, which I later learned could be purchased right there in the hotel, sold at the bar under the name “Bloody Mary”.
I am of the opinion that if you are legitimately trying to help someone, there should be no need to falsely advertise your personality, and certainly no need for salesmanship. But that is exactly how financial professionals brand themselves, that they are here to help. Just think about any commercial for Fidelity, Morgan Stanley, Edward Jones, Charles Schwab, every one of them carrying themes of the uncertainty of life, the toughness of financial decisions, and most importantly the fact that their sole purpose on this earth is to help you. As someone who has been to the proverbial mountain top, I’m calling bullshit on that one.
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Copyright © Ryan P. Dunne 2014 All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent from the author.
2 June 2014
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see things as hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
What a whirlwind of ballistic stress. I’m finding it very difficult to write today, my fingers are missing the keys almost on purpose. Drive; the gas to our engines, the wind to our sails…..today I find myself severely lacking any form of drive. I’m sure i’ll finish the Ukraine situation update soon; not being paid to write does carry the perk of being bound only to the deadlines of relevance when it comes to writing on current events, and that mess isn’t getting cleaned up any time soon. Selah, plenty of time to pontificate and take a glimpse at humanity through the looking glass, as it were.
Logic and emotion have been mixing together and crashing around my head like the rough tide of a storm-battered sea. We need to get right with this, the right and left brains have both gone all sideways from the stress and there is no telling what they might do next. You see, a gentle balance is required to remain sane and in control, lest we give in to the stress and allow our lives to be totally dictated by emotion stemming from situational stress. That sort of irrational faux logos cripples people, and some are never able to recover; doomed to hurry through life certain that they have it all figured out. They close their minds and submit to the emotional shackles of comfortable ignorance. This, we can not afford. Bottom line, get it together before we run aground….there is no telling what sort of madness will ensue once we become stationary.
We need to do our best to keep that even keel, both right and left sides contributing equally as certain situations dictate, others allowing one side to take the lead (in proportion) providing a swift change of direction if needed, but always returning to neutral. This will ensure that not just good decisions are made, but decisions that we can live with comfortably.
So, you know, lets get this little mess cleared up and back on course, yeah? I’m growing quite weary of savagely lashing myself for making necessary decisions and not being able to make everyone happy. We’ve got to start looking out for numero uno around here, and as my Corpus Callosum your job, as I’m sure you are aware, is to keep the gentle and profoundly important balance between logic and emotion. Lately you’ve been slacking off and frankly, we can’t afford these sort of crippling breakdowns of responsibility. I’m sure you understand, so pretty please, with sugar on top, do your fucking job.
Okay for now,
Copyright © Ryan P. Dunne 2014 All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent from the author.
Well that was that, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I stood up so fast the chair to flew out from under me and shot back into the wall. No one even noticed. Perfect. I didn’t even think about saying goodbye to anyone, all I could think about was being somewhere else. Somewhere not boring. The monotony had reached a point of critical mass which propelled me upward and then pushed me out the front door without so much as a single thought in opposition. I jumped in my car and fired the beast up; the tires screeching like a banshee as I reversed out of the driveway and took off down the street and out of the neighborhood onto River road at unnecessarily high speed.
The Boss 302 roared with life as I accelerated from first gear into second, then powered up through third watching the speedometer climb with reckless abandon. Fifty, sixty….Fourth gear now, serious raw power under my heel. Seventy, eighty, ninety; the lines blurred solid, and it was a miracle that I was able to weave in and out of the few cars on that four-lane road without wrecking. I settled in around one hundred, paying no mind to things like stop signs or traffic lights or the fact that I was going sixty miles an hour over the speed limit. Ah yes, this was much better.
I lit a cigarette and eased off the speed, dropping to a reasonable fifty mph. Getting pulled over right now would definitely sour my mood, and considering I had just broken more traffic laws in two minutes than most people do in a year, I would surely be jailed and my license incinerated once they saw the myriad of other moving violations on my record. I barreled down the road still with no destination in mind; maybe there was no need for one. Maybe this journey was the destination, I thought. I disregarded the pot-fueled philosophical nonsense, as this was no time for modest compromise. I was looking for adventure.
I stopped off at a gas station to fill up the tank and purchase some provisions, but only the essentials: beer, cigarettes, rolling papers, and flaming-hot Cheetos. I had no idea where I would end up but I sure as hell wasn’t going anywhere without these necessary items. The beer was just in case I came to rest in a dry county which was more than likely since I probably wouldn’t make it out of the Midwest by nightfall, and I certainly wasn’t in possession of nearly enough speed to endure the thirty-three hour half-Cannonball Run from Chicago to Southern California in one long and crazed sprint. I wasn’t even positive that’s where I would end up, but I like to plan hypotheticals in best case scenario terms. I decided that pinning Pacific Beach, California as my final destination was acceptable for the moment.
I returned to the great orange machine and plopped down onto the black leather bucket seat. I pulled out the papers and reached into the glove box where I had stashed a little less than a quarter ounce of quality marijuana. I rolled myself a sizable joint that I planned to enjoy later when the sun was just still barely hanging in the sky and I was gunning it full bore down the highway heading west. I locked the weed back up in the glove box and started the engine which snarled to life sending a beautiful vibration down the steering column through the wheel and into my fingers. The circuit was closed and pulsing with potential energy. I slammed it into gear and smashed the gas pedal to the floor flying out of the station and back onto the road, minding a quick heal-toe on the clutch, pushing the thing into second as I sped toward the highway ramp.
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Copyright © Ryan P. Dunne 2014 All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced without written consent from the author.
27 April 2014
I blame my current state of procrastination on the crazed symphony of atmospheric percussion going on outside my window. The rain slamming against the siding and the intermittent explosions of thunder and lightning rattling the house has put me in a state of utter tranquility. I enjoy thunderstorms more than most things. I find them to be a soothing kind of natural savagery…..a humbling reminder from the earth to its human inhabitants who have long lost respect for it: i’m in charge, and I will fuck you up.
I’m supposed to be doing other things, writing other things…. instead I’ve decided that sitting here and listening to this bastard of a storm is the best thing to do for my mental health at this current juncture. The ugly fist of stress is swinging fast down upon me with great speed and malicious intent, but then again everyone faces this scenario once in a while–or for some poor schmucks–every damn day of their lives. You can either dodge, block the brute and return a counterpunch of calm and rational action, or you can throw in the towel and cowardly sulk out of the ring. I am far too committed to give up on this strange journey now, too many other people have become involved. Which is probably for the best; had this been a lone adventure I’d be severely compelled to give up….but fear of disappointment tends to outweigh situational stress, at least for me. If I go down, i’m going down swinging. There’s just no other way about it. But for now I’ve got this storm…the paper can wait a few more hours.
To be fair I was reading Thompson’s Songs of the Doomed for quite a bit before the storm started, so I was well into a distraction-laden stupor when the first flash of lightning cracked open the sky. I probably wouldn’t have moved for hours even if the storm hadn’t hit. I get all tangled up in Thompson’s stuff, especially the political pieces. He puts a perspective on politics from ‘68 to ‘76 so unique it should be required reading in high schools all across this weird country. Especially the more gonzo pieces; the destruction of Ed Muskie by way of the Ibogaine story, in which Thompson compared the failings of Muskie’s campaign and his eroding demeanor to the effects of long term use of a drug called Ibogaine, which no one else had heard of, and Thompson had only known about because of a random subscription he had to a noted medical journal that had done a study on the drug. Thompson started the rumor, and then wrote about the rumor, saying that it all made sense but never said that it was true. The idea was that Muskie as a candidate was already on his way out, and stood no chance at that point to beat out George McGovern for the Democratic nomination. His campaign was losing life fast and Thompson’s Ibogaine story was the gonzo-filled shotgun blast that put it out of it’s misery. As a journalist, and one in the most unconventional sense, his pen carried that much weight.
Not that any of that has any modern effect on my life today. Many other wild things are happening in all corners of the globe. Everyone is on edge. Everyone is waiting for the next big story. Everyone is preemptively distracted. The historical events of the political scene in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s through the eyes of an eccentric drug fueled Doctor of Journalism is escapism to me what TMZ is to someone else I suppose. Not that I condone that sort of thing, I feel the same way about most reality television as I would about an orphanage burning to the ground; what a tragic waste of life, all around…..storms over, time to wrap this strange escape up. Ah, the comedown; back to reality, back to work. Selah, Perhaps just a quick nap first….
28 April 2014
This past Weekend was Easter, the Catholic holiday celebrating the Crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Easter fell on April twentieth this year, Catholics weren’t the only ones in high spirits. Residents in Colorado and Washington celebrated the first legal 4/20 festivals; the name of which is an allusion to the time of day a group of California teens would get together after high school to toke up in the seventies, according to a long running urban legend and several very credible stoners that I know personally.
People from all over the country flocked west toward the first green states in the Union to celebrate the legal marriage of marijuana and taxable industry, which has proven to be incredibly profitable in just the first few months since legalization laws have taken effect. Over the past ten years especially, the paradigm of how Americans view marijuana as a dangerous and merit-less drug has shifted dramatically, and will continue to do so until the federal government lifts its prohibition of marijuana and legalizes it nationally. The positive effects of which would be profoundly evident, as we are already starting to see in Colorado and Washington.
The most obvious effects would be seen in tax revenue collection from legal and medical marijuana. In the first two months of 2014 alone, Colorado raked in $7.17 million in tax revenue. The state expects to bring in almost $100 million in tax revenue during the next fiscal year, which begins in July. $40 million of that annual amount will go to public school construction, a swift pinprick to the ballooned-up anti-weed argument that marijuana is nothing but a detriment to society. The estimated national marijuana market in five years will be worth about $10.2 billion, and at standard 15 percent national sales tax the revenue would be around $1.5 billion annually. Obviously that kind of money is not going to be the solution to eliminating the national debt, but that inflow could be used to ease the strain of other federal programs being stripped of funding do to budget cuts, such as the Veteran’s Affairs department. (Stuart)
Not to mention the jobs that the a national industry would create. Currently there has been about ten thousand jobs created because of the legalization in Colorado (Michael Elliott, M.I.G.), and on a national scale that would net an estimated five hundred thousand jobs. Imagine the curious irony of a drug dealer job fair; finding legal weed jobs for weed dealers put out of work by legalization. One hand washed the other, as it were.
There is also an often-forgotten side to marijuana legalization that has a massive amount of economical upside: the cultivation of hemp. Hemp is the THC-free (THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the groovy psychoactive chemical compound found in weed that is responsible for getting you high) strain of the cannabis sativa plant, and it’s fibrous stalks and seeds have a multitude of purposes from paper to clothing to body moisturizer. The hemp industry in America flourished long before the Marijuana tax act of 1937 made growing the crop illegal, and today the national hemp industry does about $450 million worth of business related to hemp products, but because the crop is illegal to grow in every state except Colorado and Washington, all the material for hemp products must be imported. (Salon)
Post-legalization crime rates in Colorado have not skyrocketed as law enforcement officials opposing the legalization claimed they would. In fact, crime rates have decreased in most areas since January first. According to an article by the Huffington Post citing Denver Police department statistics, the numbers are not earth-shattering but they show improvement, and that is key:
According to data from the Denver Police Department, violent crime (including homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) fell by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2014, compared with the same period in 2013. Property crime (including burglary, larceny, auto theft, theft from motor vehicle and arson) dropped by 11.1%. (Huff Post)
This is quite contrary to what most conservative opponents of legalization predicted would happen. While it is still too early on to determine long term crime rate patterns correlated to marijuana legalization, the numbers are leaning in a promising direction, and proving a point long stated by weed advocates: that marijuana use does not lead to violent behavior. But how can that be, you may ask yourself, didn’t we have a war on drugs for that very reason? Well, not exactly.
The war on drugs was an emphatic left hook of wasted tax dollars to the temple of America that left it’s citizens stunned and blinded for nearly two decades by what could only be described by voters as ‘good intentions’ on the part of the federal government, the effects of which did little to nothing to curb America’s drug problems and crowded our prison system with non-violent offenders hung out to dry on mandatory minimum sentences. Our problem literally became their profit. It was a political platform that every politician jumped on despite it’s weak foundation; a very broad and unforgiving one that pitted self-proclaimed moralists against basically everyone else. You were either against the use, sale, and overall existence of drugs in any form in American culture, or you were one of them; a red-eyed counter-culture zombie deemed unfit for mass production. At any rate, the war on drugs was an excuse for the CIA and the DEA to romp around Central and South America, flipping governments whose interests in the region didn’t align with the United States.
This was especially the case with marijuana, the evil gateway drug that was seen as the first stepping stone on the path to full blown delinquency and eventual use of and addiction to much harder drugs. This is what I, as well as the rest of my generation, came to be taught in school through the D.A.R.E. program and poorly structured health classes, while in reality the real gateway drugs were being handed out like candy to anyone who complained of anything from back pain or ADHD. You want to know how I know for certain the war on drugs was a complete and total failure? Marijuana is well on its way to full scale legalization, and the pharmaceutical industry just came out with a new narcotic painkiller, Zohydro, which is ten times stronger than vicodin and said to have the abilities to cause an adult to overdose on just two pills if his or her tolerance to opiates isn’t on level. (Huff Post)
The evils of other drugs like heroin and cocaine seemed to sell themselves….overdoses and withdrawal symptoms are tangible, easily understood facts of hard drugs. But weed had to be targeted and pushed back against with strong rhetoric and expansive PSA campaigns that appealed to morals and guilt, as well as pigeonholing weed in with all other “drugs” mostly because science at the time had no hard evidence to support what the Reagan-era screw-heads would propagate about the stuff. Of course this also meant there was no evidence to disprove classically hilarious “facts” like smoking one joint has the equivalent cardiovascular effect as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes. They just wanted to stomp out the hippies, and steer the country in the opposite direction from the love generation’s wild, free-spirited attitude of the Sixties and Seventies. This was the eighties, and it was high time to get serious (despite the never ending amount of cultural allusions to the fact that David Lee Roth’s nose was the official spirit animal of the 1980’s).
However the truth could only be suppressed for so long, as non-biased clinical studies in the nineties led to states accepting marijuana as a legitimate medical treatment, starting with California in 1996 and expanding to twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently, with Maryland being the most recent this year. (procon.org) Many of those states are planning ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana for recreational use after the success of similar bills in Washington and Colorado.
Public opinion of marijuana has virtually skyrocketed in the last ten years, as the graphic below clearly shows, courtesy of the Huffington post:
The correlation between the time we started actually trying to learn about the plant instead of just writing it off as an evil psychosis-inducing menace is the same time the public began to fall out of love with the idea of all-out marijuana prohibition, which when all is said and done costs state and the federal governments an estimated $17.4 billion according to a 2010 study by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron.
With all the economic, medical, and social reasons for legalization of marijuana, it is difficult to argue against it when actual facts are involved. Coincidentally, the several remaining arguments against legalization are extremely similar if not the same as problems caused by alcohol use in our society, which as everyone is aware is regulated, taxed, and sold to the of-age public. Marijuana should absolutely be handled the same way. Some of the anti-legalization arguments pine in the direction that legalizing weed would be a slippery slope to eventual legalization of all drugs, and society would completely come off the rails. This idea is further massaged by the fact that marijuana is still categorized as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, which is the most dangerous of all five categories, likening the effects of marijuana to heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Hydromorphone (brand name dilaudid, a morphine-like I.V. painkiller) and Heroin are not in the same categories only due to medical use of hydromorphone even though it is basically hospital heroin, which goes to show that the DEA scheduling of drugs is a bit outdated and not a good barometer of what we know about the effects of marijuana today.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration has recently said it does not plan on changing marijuana’s scheduling, but I believe that it will happen sooner or later. The federal government will be forced to change its stance once more and more states begin to legalize both medical and eventually recreational use of marijuana. People are coming around to the idea in record numbers; society is almost mirroring itself in the twenties towards the very end of alcohol prohibition… it’s only a matter of time before the remaining conservative arguments against a national legalization go up in smoke.
Kolodny, M.D. Andrew. “Zohydro: The FDA-Approved Prescription for Addiction.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
Stuart, Hunter. “If You Support Legal Marijuana, Memorize These 13 Stats.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Apr. 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.
Ashoka. “Industrial Hemp: A Win-Win For The Economy And The Environment.”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 29 May 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
“Databases, Tables & Calculators by Subject.” Bureau of Labor Statistics Data. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
21 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC – Medical Marijuana – ProCon.org.”ProCon.org. Procon.org, 2014. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Belville, Russ. “What Does America Think About Pot?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
Dighe, Ranjit. “Legalize It — The Economic Argument.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
“BalancedPolitics.org.” - Legalization of Marijuana (Pros & Cons, Arguments For and Against, Advantages & Disadvantages). 2014 Balancedpolitics.org, 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
Erb, Kelly Phillips. “It’s No Toke: Colorado Pulls In Millions In Marijuana Tax Revenue.”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.
16 April, 2014
The situation at the Bundy ranch in Southern Nevada last week stirred up quite a bit of bad noise around the country. The federal Government began rounding up cattle belonging to a rancher named Cliven Bundy, whose cattle were declared as trespassing on public land after Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees (which are collected and used by the government to maintain the land) for the past 20 years. It was quickly spun into a tale of good versus evil, with the end result as of right now being that the good, freedom-loving folks at Bundy ranch and their supporters triumphed over the evil, greedy totalitarian forces of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Federal Government.
Smash cut back to reality….don’t believe the hype, folks; the next American revolution is not going to jump off at the Bundy ranch in Nevada. At least I hope and pray, with every solid ounce of conviction left in this cynical bag of atoms, that it does not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for tearing down the system and creating one that doesn’t have a big business first, citizens second mentality, however any armed insurrection against the government will end in nothing but senseless bloodshed and an eventual total restriction of liberty.
Which is sort of ironic, considering that libertarian groups are the ones propagating the idea that Cliven Bundy is somehow right, and that this is proof that the Federal government is nothing but a tyrannous cancer crippling the spirit of freedom and all that is the United States of America. What they are really doing is spreading bad information and attempting to stir up anti-government fervor by encouraging “militia” groups to converge on the Bundy ranch when the BLM was rounding up Bundy’s cattle a week ago, and stand in solidarity with the stubborn bastard, guns loaded and pointed east towards Washington. They took to social media to share the atrocity of freedom that was going down in Nevada. “The second American revolution is upon us!” they cried from their libertarian mouthpiece websites, which like most other politically aligned publications, were loaded with biased, truthless rhetoric, encouraging citizens to stand up to the baseless tyranny of the Feds with pointed, minimalist language; remaining emotionally charged yet vague to ensure people would get fired up about the idea of revolution without asking too many questions.
For the record, I am not pro-government, or at least not in favor of the United States current version of business as usual. What I am adamantly against, is rapid spread of misinformation based on the crazy ideals of people who refuse to think in terms of reality. So lets take a look at that reality, and why The Bundy ranch situation is not the flash point of the next American revolution.
Some of the facts of this strange tale take us back much farther in time, but let’s start in 1992, when Cliven Bundy stopped paying grazing fees to the BLM–fees that no other ranchers in Nevada seem to have a problem with–to allow his cattle to graze on public land. Not because the fees went up, or were at all high to begin with; Bundy just did not want to pay them anymore. He has since been continuing to graze his cattle on public land. Bundy tried to sue the Federal government in 1998 on the grounds that the US does not own public land, that by definition it is free to use by whomever. This begs the question that makes or breaks the case for Bundy: what is public land and who owns or has a right to it? Unfortunately for Bundy, his assertion of what public land means was in fact very wrong.
In his case, the court cited an almost identical case from not more than one year prior, US vs Gardner, of which the same conclusion was reached as in Bundy’s case. “Public land” is not owned by John Q. Public. In the case of the public land in Nevada, US Vs Gardner states (as does history) that the US received the land that is now Nevada from Mexico according to the 1848 treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Original owners of land in that territory retained their ownership, but the remainder of the land became property of the United States Government. Bundy countered this with the argument that the public land belonged to the state, since the US can only hold land in trust for the future creation of states. Again, the court struck that argument down, citing US vs Gardner:
“The Court stated that the United States held this land in trust for the establishment of future states. Once those new states were established, the United States’ authority over the land would cease. This decision was based on the terms of the cessions of the land from Virginia and Georgia to the United States. Before becoming a state, however, Nevada had no independent claim to sovereignty, unlike the original thirteen states. Therefore, the same reasoning is not applicable to this case, in which the federal government was the initial owner of the land from which the state of Nevada was later carved.”
That notion is backed up by this part of the Nevada Constitution:
“Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States”
So much for that argument. Bundy also claims that his family has been using the lads for over 150 years, and that they have more right to it than the government. The Bundy family did not arrive and start working the land until 1877, 29 years after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. Bundy goes on to try to make several other arguments that are all flawed and struck down by the courts, mostly by citing Nevada State laws that Bundy and his lawyers obviously thought the US courts would just gloss over and give up. The court decided heavily against Bundy, as none of his arguments held any water.
After the militia groups showed up, the BLM abandoned it’s roundup of Bundy’s cattle and left, stating that they felt a severe need to de-escalate the situation amidst tensions that could easily lead to bloodshed. I’m sure they will be back, and I’m sure this situation has not peaked just yet. The bottom line is that all these people have rallied to support a stubborn criminal for no good reason at all. I could understand the support, and might even be a part of it myself, if Cliven Bundy was in the right. But he is not, and doesn’t even have a solid rationale for it beyond that he just does not want to pay because he thinks things work differently than they do.
It’s not hard to understand the mentality of the anti-government militia member. I agree with some points that are made by those that wish to “change” things; however as a realist and someone who has a small grasp of macroeconomics, at this current point in history any sort of revolution, civil war, coup d’etat, etc. would spell the end of this country and most likely erase any liberties an armed revolution would be fighting for. I’m not going to delve too deep into this theory, but here’s the basic idea: So let’s say for the sake of the argument that there was an uprising leading to a war between the people and the government. Then let’s take another extremely hypothetical step forward and say that the government didn’t obliterate the revolutionaries with the full force of the U.S. military, which as I remember is a pretty darn good military (the US spends more on defense than the next eleven countries combined) and also that there was about a 50% chance of either side winning. An internal conflict of that size would devastate the US economy, which is heavily linked in various sectors and investments to the international markets and the global economy in general. The destabilization of global markets would force other countries to intervene and resolve the conflict for us, one way or another. It would most likely be China or the E.U. whom most of our outstanding loans originated with. We would not be able to maintain our sovereignty in a civil war due to the economic ripples it would send through, and force stabilizing action from, the rest of the world.
Though the chances of an actual revolution are obviously slim and none, the idea seems to get people pretty excited, even if the rational behind it is beyond flawed. Cliven Bundy is simply and old kook who doesn’t want to pay up like everyone else, and that is certainly not a reason to start firing your AR-15 into the sky, shouting freedom as a Bald Eagle drinking a Budweiser flies overhead. Bad political advertising is to blame for libertarian mentalities, or perhaps it’s their own brand of revisionist interpretation of history that allows them to bypass present day facts in favor of more-American ideals and traditional values.
Bundy, his supporters, and libertarians everywhere have ostracized themselves by claiming victory by virtue after running off the BLM from the Bundy ranch. All the poor fools see is a huge banner draped across this great country that reads in bold print, “Land of the Free”. But there are many lines of fine print underneath that Bundy and the militias ignored; those lines are more commonly known as the laws of the United States of America that include but are not limited to the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and subsequently the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1844. Bundy should either pay the massive fines that have built up over the past twenty years, or forfeit some of his cattle as payment as the BLM had begun doing under federal mandate. Either way he and his militia friends should stop making so much noise asking people to stand up against the government based on a fundamentally flawed argument. Give me a good reason, and I’ll be inclined to listen. This nonsense is not what I consider to be a good reason.
US vs Gardner. Web. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit. 25 Feb. 1997.Scholar.Google.com. Google, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.
US v. Bundy. Web. Dist. Court, D. Nevada. 9 July 2013.Scholar.Google.com. Google, n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.