LESSONS LEARNED #37: “The Decriminalization of Drugs. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2010

Drugs are Killing Some of our Kids’ Cool Celebrity Role Models…and Some of Our Kids

Kids going through adolescence look up to role models.  Celebrity role models who look cool.  So they can aspire to that level of cool.  To have more friends.  Be popular.  To be popular with kids of the opposite sex.  And nothing does that like behaving like a celebrity.  Dressing like them.  Smoking like them (Joe Camel didn’t make kids smoke; movie stars and musicians did).  Having sex like them (in public like Alanis Morissette sings about in You Oughta Know).  And getting high like them.

Black Sabbath fired their front man Ozzy Osborne for his excessive drug use.  Steven Adler was fired from Guns n’ Roses for his excessive drug use.  Adler used the same drug cocktail that killed John Belushi, Chris Farley, River Phoenix and Jean-Michel Basquiat, to name a few.  One of Adler’s speedballs, though, gave him a stroke and left him with a speech impediment.  Osborne?  It’s hard to see or hear him and not think ‘drugs’.  Keith Richards, too.  (Some claim that it’s a miracle that either has lived so long.)  Amy Winehouse’ irregular heart beat resulted from a long use of cocaine.  John Entwistle died from a cocaine-induced heart attack.  Ol’ Dirty Bastard died from a cocaine & prescription drug induced heart attack.  Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of a prescription drug cocktail (oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine).  Bradley Nowell died from a heroin overdose just before Sublime’s major label album debut (which included three hits).  Danella Westbrooke lost the cartilage in her nose (and her profile) due to the massive amounts of cocaine she sniffed.  And there are a host of other celebrities whose past drug use is catching up to them in their old age.  Such as David Crosby’s liver disease.  His liver transplant resulted from his many years of drug abuse.

These are some expensive black market drugs.  But this isn’t a problem if you have a lot of money.  If these drugs were decriminalized, they would be cheaper.  And much more plentiful.  Meaning that they wouldn’t be limited to the rich and famous.  If they were less expensive, kids starting their drug exploration wouldn’t have to limit their exploration to the less expensive stuff (stealing from their parents’ medicine cabinet, sniffing butane, smoking marijuana, etc.).  They could broaden their horizon.  And why not?  They’re going to do it anyway.  And not everyone becomes an addict.  Or dies.

The British East Indian Company Used Indian Opium to Fix Their Balance of Trade with China

In the 19th century, mercantilism ruled.  It was all about balance of trade.  Nations wanted to export their goods.  And import gold and silver that paid for those goods.  Both Great Britain and China pursued these policies.  This became a problem for Great Britain whose people grew very fond of Chinese silk and porcelain and other Chinese exotic goods.  But the Chinese weren’t buying anything British.  Great Britain was importing more than she was exporting to China.  This meant there was a net silver flow from Great Britain to China.  And this wasn’t good mercantilism.  For the British.  It was very good mercantilism for the Chinese.  The British needed something to sell to the Chinese.  Something that only they could sell so the Chinese would have no choice but to buy from Great Britain.  And the British East India Company had just the thing.  Indian opium.

And it worked.  It reversed the balance of trade.  Silver was leaving China at an alarming rate.  But it was also turning the majority of Chinese males near the coastal cities into junkies.  Business suffered.  The civil service suffered.  With less available to buy the standard of living fell.  A dysfunctional civil service compounded that problem.  Rampant opium use was undermining Confucian values.  The Chinese begged the British to destroy the Indian poppy fields.  The British replied that, with the huge Chinese demand for opium, if they didn’t sell it, someone else would.  It would only cost the British their lucrative trade.  It wouldn’t solve the Chinese opium addiction problem.

Well, that led to war.  Two of them.  The Opium Wars.  Neither of which ended well for the Chinese.  They lost a lot.  Chinese coastal cities became virtually British.  Hong Kong became British.  Trade favored the British and other foreign nationals.  It led to much bitterness and resentment.  And to the Boxer Rebellion in 1898 to throw the imperialists out of China.  Which didn’t work all that well either.  But the British did help the Chinese to break their opium addiction.  If the Chinese worked from within to reduce consumption, the British would cut back on their opium importations.  Opium use declined in China.  As did opium imports.  With the decline in consumption, no new sources of opium rushed to fill an unmet demand.

The Americans and the Russians to Collaborate over Afghanistan’s Poppy Fields, The Netherlands Making their Legalized Marijuana less Legal

Well, there are still poppy fields in Southwest Asia.  And a high demand for heroin not too far away.  In Russia.  And it’s killing them.  Literally.   Some tens of thousands die each year from overdoses.  The collateral damage (broken families, lost jobs, the spread of AIDS from shared needles, neglected children, etc.) from drug addiction probably touches 10 times that number.  And the drug trade crime kills who knows how many more.  From the poppy fields in Afghanistan through the Central Asian states into Russia herself, there is an explosion of violence for this lucrative drug trade.  How bad is it?  Russia may return to Afghanistan to help the Americans in eradicating these poppy fields and shutting down the drug laboratories.  (For those who do not know, the Russian/Soviet war in Afghanistan was Russia’s Vietnam War.  And, let us not forget that both of these wars became proxy wars between America and the former Soviet Union.  So America and Russia working together in Afghanistan is a big thing).

Russia is even advising America against the ballot initiative in California to legalize marijuana.  Viktor Ivanov, Russia’s top drug official, went to Los Angeles to campaign against the ballot proposal.  He warned that legalizing marijuana will start a downward spiral into drug addiction.  We can understand heroin.  But marijuana?  A soft drug?  The Netherlands have long had legalized marijuana there.  It works there.  Why not in California?

Well, Netherland has had its problems with its marijuana coffee shops and cafes.  There’s been trouble in their border areas.  Tourists coming in just to get high.  And a lot of people have been going there.  Business is booming.  High demand.  Which have brought in crime as people vie to supply that demand.  There have been problems with school kids so they’ve banned these coffee shops/cafes within certain distances of schools.  And they’ve been selling a more potent cannabis, which is knocking the casual user on their ass.  Or impairing their motor skills.  And, with the rising amount of trouble from the drug tourists, they’re restricting sale to Dutch citizens only.  One other note.  Drug enforcement has been stepped up at Schiphol airport.  Why?  To counter a rising cocaine traffic coming in from the Caribbean. 

Drugs, Drug Wars and the War on Drugs Take their Toll as they Kill and Destroy

Kids are experimenting with drugs.  They’ll start with the softer stuff.  Like in the Netherlands.  But they’ll probably move on to something more potent.  Like in the Netherlands.  There appears to be a progression.  From less dangerous drugs to more dangerous drugs.  You can bet that John Belushi, Chris Farley, River Phoenix and Jean-Michel Basquiat, et al, started their drug use with something less dangerous than cocaine-heroin speedballs.  And look at them now.  Of course you can’t because their dead and buried.  But you get the point.

Epidemic use in China destroyed a millennium-old culture.  Ended a dynasty.  Caused multiple wars.  They finally kicked the habit.  With the help of the British (who helped give them the problem in the first place).  But the poppy fields just found new users.  In Russia.  And elsewhere.  It’s so bad that former enemies are joining forces on a former battleground to fight a new common enemy.  And the Russians are warning Californians not to legalize marijuana.  We’ve certainly come a long way from the days of the Cold War where the Soviets would have helped that initiative pass to help bring down their one-time enemy.

Drugs are a problem.  A big problem.  They kill and destroy.  Drug wars kill and destroy.  As does the war on drugs.  Damned if you do.  Damned if you don’t.  So what to do?  Well, imagine two worlds.  One where drugs are plentiful and cheap.  And one where no one uses drugs.  Which world you’d rather live in?  Which world do you want your children to live in?  I thought so.  And there’s your answer.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #14: “Christianity does not beget antidisestablishmentarianism.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 18th, 2010

DID THE FOUNDING Fathers found America as a Christian nation?  No.  Did they found a secular nation?  Not exactly.  Did they found a federal nation?  Yes.

Federalism.  What does it mean?  It means the new federal government would have LIMITED powers.  The new national government would do national things.  Trade.  National defense.  Treat with other nations.  In other words, those things that required a single national voice.  The French didn’t want to treat with the individual states.  They didn’t want one set of trade agreements for Virginia and another for North Carolina.  Neither did Great Britain.  Or the other European powers.  No.  If the United States of America wanted to be an independent nation, then they had to act as a single, unified nation.  So they did.

The other things, the non-national things, they left to the states.  And one of these things was religion.  For when it came to religion, the new federal government did not interfere in the states’ religious business.  Ergo the First Amendment.  The ‘wall’ between church and state was to separate the new federal government from the states’ religious establishments.  If a state discriminated against all but their established religion, that was fine and dandy for it was a moot point as far as the federal government was concerned.  It just wasn’t their business.

Now, a truly secular government would intervene in such a case.  The federal government would later, but at the founding, one of the preconditions for ratification of the Constitution was that it wouldn’t.  And it didn’t.  Interfere with a state’s religion.

WE ALL KNOW the story of the Pilgrims, the Puritans, coming to the New World from England to escape religious persecution.  Probably not as familiar with the backstory.  The English Civil War.  Duke of Buckingham.  King and Parliament.  Queen and Parliament.  The French.  The Spanish.  The Pope.  The Kirk.  The Ulster Uprising.  Oliver Cromwell.  And, of course, William Laud.

Here’s the short version of what happened.  And some back-story to the back-story.  The Protestant Reformation split the Catholic Church.  Much fighting ensued.  This split nations into essentially Catholic and Protestant camps (which broke down into further divisions).  England was Protestant.  Scotland was Presbyterian (a branch of Protestantism).  Ireland was Catholic with a Protestant enclave in Ulster.

Mix them together, add a not great English king, who married a French Catholic, throw in a revised Church of England prayer book, bring back some Catholicism to the Protestant Church of England, dissolve Parliament, recall Parliament, try to dissolve it again and, well, you get civil war.  Parliament wins the war.  They behead the king. 

The English Civil War is a little more complicated than this.  But for our purposes, it’s the religious component that’s important. Everyone persecuted someone at one time.  One group, the Puritans, were Protestants.  Hardcore Protestants.  Calvinists.  They were about as anti-Catholic as you could get.  Didn’t like any of the Catholics’ fancy vestments, icons, statues, pictures, altar rails, candlesticks, stained glass windows, etc.  That church was corrupt.  They had lost their way. 

They didn’t believe in original sin or that you can buy your way into heaven.  God chose your fate before you were born.  If you were one of the elect, you passed your days in long church services and you read the Bible.  If you didn’t do these things it was proof you weren’t one of the elect.  And were damned.  No matter what you did during your life.  Cure cancer, it didn’t matter.  You were damned.

They didn’t like Catholics and Catholics didn’t like them.  And, as it turned out, the Protestant powers that be didn’t much care for them either.  In England or on the Continent.  They just couldn’t be un-Catholic enough to please the Puritans.  Much bitterness ensued.  Many left the Old World and settled in the New World.  Like the Israelites fleeing Egypt, these Puritans came to the New World to establish that city on a hill of Mathew 5:14 fame (from the Sermon on the Mount.  Given by Jesus Christ.  Just in case you’re unfamiliar with it).

THEY CAME FROM England, Scotland, the Netherlands, France and settled in New England, New York and the far side of the Appalachians.  A hard working people.  They provided for themselves.  Went to church.  Read the Bible.  All work and no play.  At least, some would say. 

They established the state-supported Congregational Church in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  John Adams was born and raised a Calvinist and attended this state-supported church.  When writing the new state’s constitution, the state support of the church was a contentious issue.  Most felt that religion was an indispensible part of life.  Others agreed but feared a religious majority would oppress a religious minority.  The process would take 3 years to resolve.

Being in the heart of the rebellion, Abigail Adams, Founding Mother, and perhaps America’s first feminist, experienced much of the darker side of the struggle for independence.  Soulmate of John Adams in every sense of the word, she was as religious as he.  As the war dragged on with no end in sight, she feared it was God’s punishment for the sins of American slavery.

IN VIRGINIA, THE established church was the Anglican Church (i.e., the Church of England).  As in Massachusetts, there was debate about an established majority religion oppressing a minority religion.  For good reason.  It did.  Right in James Madison’s backyard.  Baptists were harassed.  And imprisoned.  You needed a license to preach.  Virginia and the established church made getting that license very difficult.  If you were a Baptist.

America’s least religious Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Virginian Statute for Religious Freedom.  The Virginian General Assembly passed it in 1786, two years before the states ratified the U.S. Constitution.  To help get the Virginian Baptists on board for ratification, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, promised to add a Bill of Rights after ratification that would add similar rights and protection at the federal level that were enacted at the state level.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN MAY have been a Deist.  He was, after all, the embodiment of the Enlightenment.  Like Thomas Jefferson.  They embraced reason over dogma.  But Franklin believed religious faith was fundamental to civilized society.  His personal beliefs boiled down to simply doing good deeds.  Help others.  And sometimes you need to remind some people to help others.  And that’s why he liked religion.  He spent much of his life helping his community (serving in the state militia, participating in the volunteer fire department, etc.).  At an impasse at the Constitutional Convention, it was he who suggested they should pray.

GEORGE WASHINGTON MAY not have taken communion, but he added chaplains to his army units during the American Revolution.  He believed the American cause was a divine one.  He feared a lack of faith may determine battlefield outcomes.  He led an integrated army of Protestants and Catholics.  And Jews.  And blacks.  And others.  He forbade anti-Catholic demonstrations which were very common in the former British colonies.  When an Army went to Canada to attack the British, they were to respect the Catholic French Canadians and invite them to join their cause.  He would even attend Catholic service on occasion.  Like the army, the nation he would lead would be a melting pot.  Tolerance and respect was the mantra.  For all Americans.

SO, DID THE Founding Fathers found a Christian nation?  No.  Religious establishment was simply beyond the responsibility of the new federal government.  Did Christians settle the original colonies?  Yes.  And they established Christian churches.  And the states were worried that a new federal government would interfere with their religious business.  Some wanted additional safeguards written in.  So James Madison added the Bill of Rights after ratification.  The First Amendment placed a wall between the federal government and the States’ religious establishments.

In time, the states extended the tolerance and respect of religious diversity prevalent in Washington’s army to their states.  They disestablished their established churches.  And, to their relief, religion flourished.  Especially the different branches of Christianity.  Yes, America became even more Christian, but it tolerated and respected other religions.  New York even had a Jewish Temple 3 years after the British surrender at Yorktown.  And even the Catholics were welcomed in the new nation.

DISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM INCREASED THE spread of Christianity.  Like the economy, the freer it was the more it flourished.  And with the great number of Christian religions that have since spread across the nation, it is unlikely that overt acts of Christianity would result in the establishment of one of these.  Or the reestablishment of the Church of England. 

So go ahead and display your Christmas Crèche or the Ten Commandments.  Chances are good that it won’t beget antidisestablishmentarianism.

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