Letters for January 24, 2013
The failure of prohibition
Re “Taking the high road” (Cover story, by David Downs, Jan. 17):
The people of Colorado and Washington state are way ahead of the politicians in Washington, D.C. If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to subsidize violent drug cartels, prohibition is a grand success. The drug war distorts supply-and-demand dynamics so that big money grows on little trees.
If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to deter marijuana use, prohibition is a catastrophic failure. The United States has double the rate of use as the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available.
The criminalization of Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis has no basis in science. The war on marijuana consumers is a failed cultural inquisition, not an evidence-based public-health campaign. It’s time to stop the arrests and instead tax legal marijuana.
Robert Sharpe, MPA
Common Sense for Drug Policy
Wrong on the Second Amendment
Re “More about guns” (Letters, by Garry Cooper, Jan. 10):
The Second Amendment is a mere 27 words long and pretty straightforward. It begins with “A well-regulated militia….” I’m not convinced a disassociated cadre of citizens whose only commonality is the owning of semi-automatic military weapons is “well-regulated.” If all of the owners of these weapons want to join the National Guard or Reserves and train regularly, I will support their assault-weapon ownership (maintained in a safe location). But right now I have difficulty in believing the shooter at Sandy Hook (or even his mother, who legally owned the weapons) was part of a “well-regulated militia.”
The next of Cooper’s interpretations is that the citizens, with their assault weapons, are fulfilling the amendment’s purpose in having “firepower equal to that of the government.” I must assume this indicates he also has an Abrams tank in his garage and an Apache helicopter on a pad in his back yard.
The idea that a bunch of yahoos with AK-47s could prevent a government takeover (if such was possible, which it is not, as the voluntary military would never comply with such illegal orders) is insane. Standing at his front door as the tanks roll up, does Cooper really think they’ll back down if he yells, “Stop, I’ve got an AK-47!”
Third, Cooper has no knowledge of history but has invented his own interpretation of these 27 words. In fact, the original purpose of the amendment was to ensure domestic tranquility, inasmuch as the federal government did not have the capacity to put down an internal revolt. The Framers wanted to arm the people so uprisings, like Shay’s Rebellion and anti-tax protests like the Whiskey Rebellion, attacks by Native Americans or slave revolts, could be repulsed. There was no concept of the people protecting themselves against the government.
Cooper has invented an interpretation of the Second Amendment that exists only in his dreams.
Wrong again on the Second
Re “Two on the Second” (Letters, by Chad Wozniak, Jan. 17):
I’m not sure how his 1970 dissertation on the Northwest Ordinance qualifies Chad Wozniak as an authority on the Second Amendment. Certainly, it didn’t prevent him from making numerous NRA-inspired errors in his letter.
For starters, Wozniak claims that the Second Amendment was designed to ensure that “government did not possess a monopoly of armed force.” Wrong! It was designed to ensure that the federal government did not claim such a monopoly at the expense of the state governments.
Next, he asserts that the gun rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment were to be exercised “independent of any governmental authority.” Wrong again! The Second Amendment explicitly links constitutional gun rights to the manning of “well regulated militia[s]” maintained by the separate States, which were intended to share a divided military power with the federal government.
Finally, Wozniak claims that today’s National Guard is not sufficiently independent of federal authority to qualify as the “real militia” envisioned by our Founding Fathers. Again, this is incorrect. One need only consult the militia clauses embedded in Article I, Section 8; and Article II, Section 2, of our Constitution to see that the National Guard would easily pass muster with James Madison and Co.
Meanwhile, it’s equally clear that President Obama’s list of reasonable and essential gun-control proposals are in perfect accord with the Second Amendment, even under the crazy new interpretations recently handed down by the Scalia cabal in the Heller and McDonald cases.
Movie captures gun chaos
I recently viewed a perfect illustration of the arguments for gun control. I got the 1981 movie Taps to see Tom Cruise’s first major role, and refresh when I saw it in the theater. Based around the fictional Bunker Hill Military Academy, it’s about boys from pre-teen ages to those on the verge of joining West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy going through military-type discipline to get through life. The owners of the land Bunker Hill sits on decide commercial development is more advantageous to them, so they announce the Academy will be closed.
The “townies,” who don’t understand the military way of life, get the students into a conflict that forces law enforcement to be involved. At the height of the face-off, we see trained pre-teen young men with M-16s on sentry duty inside the academy grounds, while a National Guard group positions its forces, including tanks, outside. Bullets accidentally fly, students die, and the situation escalates out of control.
This movie, which was made before all of the tragedies, from Oklahoma City to the present, does not end well for the students. It illustrates this argument with stark reality.
Easy for them to say
I see that the corporate CEOs of the Business Roundtable think that the best solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare is to raise the retirement age to 70.
I’m sure that if you have never done a day of physical labor in your life and do interesting work in a comfortable office, working into old age sounds like a fine idea. But anyone considering such an idea ought to have a talk with some of the folks I work with—nurses, nurse’s aides, hospital housekeepers, people who spend most of the working day on their feet doing physically demanding work.
Then maybe talk to a few motel maids, farm workers and fast-food workers, roofers and carpenters. Ask them how the idea of working until they drop sounds to them.
And forget the notion that we can’t let people retire at 65 anymore because they are living so much longer. Life expectancy is tricky, but here it is in a nutshell: Changes in life expectancy are mostly not about how long old people live, but about how many people die young. Life expectancy at 65 has changed rather little in the last 50 years, and most of that change has been concentrated in upper-income groups. A worker in the bottom half of the income distribution—the people doing the physically difficult jobs—has seen an increase of only about 1.6 years in that life expectancy.
The real solution? Raise the cap on payroll taxes.
Ethnicity and religion
Re “City’s books are perfectly ‘clean’” (Newslines, by Robert Speer, Jan. 17):
In the above referenced story the author writes, “They [candidates for city commissions] are an impressive bunch, many of them highly qualified, though perhaps not as diverse as the larger community. Only four are from minority groups—one African-American, one Latino, one Southeast Asian and one Indian, Dr. Brahama D. Sharma, who wants to serve on the Airport Commission.”
Brahama D Sharma politely and emphatically states that Robert Speer is woefully mistaken in that Brahama D Sharma represents minority as an Indian. Brahama D Sharma is Jewish by birth and a naturalized U.S. citizen and is a member of the Congregation Beth Israel of Chico in very good standing all the time he has been in Chico.
Brahama D Sharma
Robert Speer responds: I was aware that Dr. Sharma was Jewish and originally wrote that he represented two minority groups, Indian Americans and Jews. Further research showed that whether Jews constitute a distinct ethnic group is a matter of debate.
One way to cut costs
Did you know that the McDonald’s in Paradise has cut most of their employees’ hours to avoid [paying for] health care for them? So now all their medical cost is shifted to the taxpayers, who already pay by purchasing their products. Many of the employees are college students who have been working for many years and need the income to attend school. I can no longer buy from a store that will not share the wealth.