The question of decriminalizing some or all illegal narcotics, to a lesser or greater extent, then regulating and taxing the ensuing trade is a serious matter. There are fair arguments on all sides (because there is range of how far we could go with this, there is arguably more than just one "side") of the debate, but it cannot be dismissed as a pointless, irrelevant, or trivial matter. Yet that's precisely what Barack Obama did at a recent town hall meeting where, based on the reaction, he was surrounded by like-minded apologists for the current structures of power and liberty. Way to break outside the beltway and take it to the people, Mr. President.
Let's run quickly through some of the reasons why it's reasonable to regard the current "war on drugs" as causing more trouble than it solves. Both the violence and corruption associated with illegal drugs are more directly connected to the prohibition of drugs than to the use of drugs. The failure of drug laws to eliminate drug use has encouraged politicians to pass ever more draconian anti-drug laws, thus leading both to unnecessary suffering through harsh sentences for non-violent offenses and a decline in respect for the law when people see police and courts consumed with these cases.
Republicans have been put in a difficult and interesting situation: should they choose public, political demagoguery by attacking the Obama administration over things like the AIG bonuses, or should they defend such bonuses as just compensation against the machinations of evil Demon-crats who just want to tax the rich in the name of communist revolution? Both are intrinsically appealing to conservatives today, but they are also mutually exclusive — you can't both oppose the bonuses and oppose doing anything about them without looking especially stupid, as Eric Cantor so effectively demonstrated.
Republicans have made it clear that their only real interest right now is politics, not the public interest, and therefore are only looking for ways to attack the Obama administration. This shouldn't be surprising to anyone, or at least anyone who has read my sermons over the past couple of years, because this follows naturally and logically from the political philosophy of Carl Schmitt, a jurist in Germany before and during the Third Reich.
Conservatives have been flinging a lot of different attacks at liberal Democrats in recent weeks, but one of the most consistent themes has been the idea of "socialism" — that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are trying to transform America into a socialist state. The truth, though, is that there's little or no connection between any of Obama's policies and socialism.
Because a fundamental characteristic of every form of socialism is the promotion of a more egalitarian society, it's tempting for opponents of egalitarianism to paint all their critics as socialists. Unfortunately for them, however, not everything that promotes greater egalitarianism or seeks to undermine unjust power is socialist. There's quite a lot more to socialism than that, which Republicans would admit if they cared about the truth. I'm assuming, of course, that they have sufficient intelligence to recognize what socialism is.
Liberals are happy that Rush Limbaugh has become the leader of the Republican Party, but it's not clear to me whether conservatives are happy — or even if they should be. Granted, Rush Limbaugh is a bit of a clown and from the liberal perspective it seems obvious that his prominence can only help the Democratic Party, but that's a rather limited perspective held primarily by political junkies and/or people who are already unlikely to vote Republican anyway.
For one thing, it's important to make a distinction between the Republican Party and the conservative "movement." They overlap to significant degrees, but they aren't quite identical. The conservative movement, for example, doesn't have to worry about elections and so doesn't ever have to make compromises in order to effectively exercise power. It's often the failure of Republican themselves to recognize this difference that can make them so bad once in government positions.
Just in case you hoped that the Obama administration's decision to defend and continue practices like rendition and detention without charges were just aberrations, it has been revealed that his Justice Department will defend and continue another Bush-era injustice: opposing the ability of convicted criminals to get DNA tests on evidence which might prove their innocence. This doesn't appear to be about retesting evidence over and over, or even seeking second opinions on evidence. No, it's just an attempt to deny people any access to evidence to get their own tests done at all.
The case in question comes from Alaska and focuses on William Osborne, convicted in 1993 of rape and kidnapping. Osborne has been appealing his case and state courts have ruled that he has no right to access DNA evidence to see if it might prove his innocence. Why? The state won't say. No, really, they won't — the three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court repeatedly pressed attorneys for the State of Alaska to explain why they won't consent to testing, despite admitting that a favorable result would "conclusively establish [Osborne’s] innocence" and despite the fact that they won't even have to pay for it. The attorneys would only respond that they were not "willing or able" to answer such questions "at this time."