What’s in a Name: 3 Pieces of Legislation with Misleading Titles

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Upon winning independence, our founding fathers were wary of centralized power. They understood the corrupting nature of power, and set about creating a system meant to balance power, and reduce greed and corruption. 

Our system of “checks and balances” is supposed to ensure that the government doesn’t violate the constitution, and they were successful.. for a while.

Arguably the first erosion to this system came in 1913, when the 62nd Congress voted to pass the 17th amendment. Prior to 1913; the general population would directly elect members of their community to represent their interests in the House of Representatives, while state legislatures would pick 2 citizens of the state to serve the interests of the state at the federal level. When state legislatures picked Senators to represent their state, the Senator holds no power, if you’re not living up to your obligations, than the legislature would replace you.  Counteracting the members of the house who would stay in power by using charm to win re-election. The general population lives in an echo-chamber. If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC and read Slate on your phone while driving the kids to school.  If you’re a republican you watch “The Five” on Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh on your lunch break. When you think about it, it’s incredibly easy to trigger Democrats,Republicans, and Libertarians.

For example most Democrats LOVE giving their takes on these topics:

 

  • Income inequality
  • Healthcare
  • Identity politics 
  • Environmental concerns
  • Abortion
  • Guns
  • Taxes not being high enough

 

While Republicans will lose their mind for:

 

  • Illegal immigration
  • Military spending
  • Police
  • Guns
  • Taxes
  • Christianity
  • Muslims
  • Abortion

Libertarians? We will lose our mind for just about anything, but if you want to get us going discuss:

  • Roads
  • Military
  • Public Education
  • Free Markets/Regulations
  • Entitlement Programs
  • Ron Paul
  • Government spending

 

We’re all hypocrites. Democrats care about identity politics, unless you’re a person of color who may disagree with you politically.  They want government mandated equality for every gender and race, except white guys. Republicans think we spend too much. Specifically on regulations, bureaucracy, and entitlement programs; but balk at cutting military spending, despite finding $125 billion in administrative waste, or any government spending that helps them remain in power; you’re a conservative farmer who wants to cut food stamps? Alright, how about after we cut corn subsidies? Last month I wrote about how Social Security is destroying our country and Republicans went ballistic. Libertarians are the most annoying people on the planet, nobody’s a “real” libertarian, we have a portion of the party that wants free markets, but is anti-immigration and “America first.” We have a county chair in Michigan who supports Antifa, and our Vice Presidential candidate appeared to be actively supporting Hillary. Literally no consistency.

Our general stupidity, and tendency towards hypocrisy has allowed the career politician to thrive. Knowing we react to buzz words and topics that sound sexy, they use psychology to garner support. Just look at the title of the bills they write .

The Patriot Act

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Sixteen years ago next month, on 10/26/01,  George W. Bush signed the “USA Patriot Act” into law. Passed in the aftermath of September 11th by a vote of 98-1 in the Senate, and 357-66 (it is worth mentioning that the only Republicans to vote against this bill were Robert Ney, Butch Otter, and Ron Paul) in the House, in an attempt to curb terrorism.  

To put it simply, the legislation was passed in a panic with very little debate. Former Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 3162 on October 23, 2001, the House passed it the next day, and within 72 hours we had passed legislation that massively expanded the scope of the federal government.

There is nothing “patriotic” about the “Patriot Act.”  The indefinite detention of immigrants? That violates the sixth amendment. “Enhanced surveillance?” That’s led to NSA wiretapping, a clear violation of the fourth amendment. A lot can be said about some of the shady things in our Constitution, but the most important political document in American history isn’t the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence; it’s the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. Both collections of essays helped develop this country; while the Federalist Papers defended the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists demanded there be a Bill of Rights to protect the people from the government.

The point is, the first ten amendments to the constitution are so important that it almost tore apart this country.  And in a moment of panic, we passed laws that violate the bill of rights.

The reason the Patriot Act keeps getting extended (last extended by Obama in 2011), is that no politician wants to appear weak on national security, and being against the Patriot Act means you support terrorism, so politicians continue to support it. Even though it doesn’t  work and often ruins lives.

Affordable Healthcare for America Act

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The “Affordable Healthcare for America Act,” commonly referred to as “Obamacare” was President Obama’s landmark legislative achievement. FDR had “The New Deal,” Johnson had his “Great Society,” Barack Obama has “Obamacare.”

Signed into law by the 111th Congress in March of 2010, with a single Republican voting for the legislation (Joseph Cao, Louisiana). 39 Democrats voted against the bill, bringing the final tally to 220 for, and 215 against.

The legislation is exceptionally long, and provided healthcare to 24 million uninsured Americans (at the threat of a tax for non-compliance). After surviving the Supreme Court, Obamacare premiums have continued to soar. As the “New York Times” points out;

“While fewer than 20 million Americans buy their own insurance, the tribulations of the individual market have captured most of the public’s attention. The average cost of a benchmark plan in the individual market rose 20 percent this year, according to Kaiser, as insurers tried to stem their losses. “

Although they later go on to defend the Affordable Care Act, the fact is that using the the term “affordable” is a misnomer. Being forced to pay for insurance you don’t want, that rises at a rate of 20% annually, under threat of punishment is the exact opposite of “affordable.”

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984

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Unlike some other pieces of legislation, “The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984,” enacted by President Reagan in October of 1984, doesn’t have a flashy nickname. The name itself is straightforward and to the point. An idiot could conceive what this legislation was meant to do. When enacted it became the first comprehensive revision of the United States criminal code since 1900. Like the Patriot Act for Bush, and “Obamacare” for Obama, “Comprehensive Crime Control” was meant to be, and is, a cornerstone of Reagan’s legacy.

The name itself is brilliant. Nobody likes crime, crime is bad. We need to get rid of crime.

But what is crime?

We all have our own moral code, our own sense of right and wrong. We all define crime differently. A soccer mom from Kansas is going to have a different vision of right and wrong than a poor kid from LA.

The benign nature of the name meant most people wouldn’t pay any attention to it. The goal was if you were against crime, than the average American wouldn’t give it a second glance.

Problem is the legislation was not benign. This country was founded on a set of principles that valued the individual over the community, the community over the state, and the state over the federal government. When it came to legal affairs the founding fathers preferred to leave the punishment of citizens to locals. A soccer mom in Kansas and a poor kid in LA have different experiences, values, and ways of life, it only makes sense that there would be minimal federal oversight on criminal affairs. That was true until small government conservatives created the United States Sentencing Commission, and put them in charge of normalizing prison sentencing.  Their recommendations became the “Armed Career Criminal Act,” creating mandatory minimums. Mandatory minimums have had a jarring effect on society. Disproportionately affecting people of color, and lower economic status, hurting multiple generations. Mandatory minimums created career criminals, comprehensive crime reform just created more crime.

The legislation also reinstated the federal death penalty, increased penalties for marijuana possession and cultivation, and created the despicable act of civil asset forfeiture .

All of this was able to get through because the name was self-explanatory and boring.
How a lawmaker labels their legislation matters. These pieces of legislation affect hundreds of millions of lives. What they pass matters. Using clever, or boring names and nicknames to either attract or repel attention is manipulation that pays off in votes. We need to demand better.

 

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Oregon Could Become The First State To Decriminalize Drugs

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In 2015 more than 50,000 people died from a drug overdose, while 13,000 of those deaths were due to heroin, that number was up 13% from 2014. Nearly 10,000 of those people died from an overdose on synthetic opiods like fentanyl, up 73% from 2014. In fact, 4/5 heroin addicts were first addicted to the synthetic opiods prescribed by doctors across the country.

This number is scary as hell, considering that 7/10 Americans take at least one prescription daily, while more than half are prescribed at least two drugs to take regularly. The number of Americans taking prescription drugs has increased 48% in the last decade, and we can logically conclude that the actions of  doctors and pharmaceutical companies has helped kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in that time period.

The numbers are alarming, and the question of how do we handle this country’s drug epidemic has become a more bipartisan issue.  As politicians and health experts scramble to come up with a solution, Oregon thinks they may have found an answer.  

Last month the Oregon state legislature passed two controversial bills, HB3078 and HB2355, meant to tackle the state’s growing drug problem. In a state that sees more than 19,000 deaths annually from drug overdoses, why would legislatures pass two bills that essentially decriminalize the possession of heroin, meth, cocaine, and other hard drugs? Shockingly, the answer comes from the  Oregon State Sheriff’s Association and the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, who wholeheartedly support the legislation; 

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HB2355 and HB3078 are sitting on Governor Kate Brown’s desk

The two groups released a statement Monday saying they want to lighten what they see as the heavy hand of Oregon law by supporting changes that would make drug possession a misdemeanor. They support the change only in cases when someone possesses “user amounts” of drugs and commits no other crime.”

The two groups argue that drug addicts need professional treatment, not jail time, and while at first glance the idea to decriminalize incredibly dangerous substances may seem idiotic, it’s not like it has never been done before.

The Portugal Experiment

In 2001 Portugal saw a rising drug epidemic in their country, in an attempt to fix that problem the decriminalized all drugs. The Portuguese saw drugs not as a criminal problem, but a public health problem, they decided that instead of send

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via the Washington Post

ing offenders to prison, everyone would be better served if the offender entered a mandatory treatment program. At the time, the move was roundly criticized, both within Portugal and abroad for being reckless. Sixteen years later, Portugal has the second lowest overdose rate of any country in the European Union, with only three people out of a million succumbing to a drug overdose.  

Despite decriminalization, Portugal has actually seen a dramatic decrease in drug usage, as well as a decrease in the diseases, and costs, associated with drug use.

What Oregon’s Legislation Actually Does

As it stands, drug use costs the state of Oregon $6 billion taxpayer dollars annually, while 23% of inmates within the state are serving time for drug related offenses, and 72% of men arrested within the state are charged with some sort of drug related crime. The negative economic effect this problem has on the economy, as well as the number of families that are torn apart because of the health issues and  lengthy prison sentences associated with drug usage are staggering. Oregon policy expert Dale Jarvis explains the negative effects drug usage has had on Oregon;

“What many don’t realize is that someone with a serious addictions disorder is going to have their body fall apart in a relatively short period. They are going to become disabled, if they don’t die first. They’re going to end up costing the taxpayer an enormous amount of money treating their serious health conditions, and then they are going to die early.”

House Bill 2355 would decriminalize hard drugs for offenders with no previous felonies, and no more than 2 previous drug convictions. Diverting offenders to mandatory treatment programs instead of putting a criminal conviction on their record gives these offenders a chance at a viable future, an opportunity for them to recover and live a normal life, providing them with hope for the future.

House Bill 3078 would be enacted in conjunction with HB2355, reducing drug related property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Known as the “Family Sentencing Alternative Pilot Program” offenders would be eligible if:

(b) The defendant [has not previously been convicted of, and] is not currently being sentenced for: (A) A person felony as defined in the rules of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission; (B) A sex crime as defined in ORS [181.805] 163A.005; or (C) An offense requiring a specified sentence

Instead of jail time, eligible offenders will have to enroll in a 12 month treatment program followed by a probationary period, with the goal being to help these addicts recover and live a normal life.

“the Department of Human Services, shall determine if the Family Sentencing Alternative Pilot Program is an appropriate program for the defendant and, if the program is appropriate and the defendant is sentenced to a term of probation, require participation in the program for the first 12 months of the probationary sentence. In addition to the conditions of probation ordered under ORS 137.540, the defendant may be required to comply with any additional conditions related to the program”

HB3078 would further provide local jurisdictions with $7 million dollars annually to give communities the resources to set up treatment programs.  

Whether or not the inefficient state should be running such a program is debatable. But what isn’t debatable is the fact that this country has a major drug problem, and the status quo isn’t working. Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann that a “state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Lets hope, for everyone’s sake, that Oregon’s new policy towards drugs is signed into law, and effective.

Austin Petersen Announces Senate Run

 

Yesterday, as American’s complained about the Fourth falling on a Tuesday, former Libertarian Presidential candidate Austin Petersen, in front of a crowd of several hundred supporters, announced his intention to seek Missouri’s Republican nomination for US Senate.  

Petersen stands with his father before his announcement.

The announcement that Petersen would be running for Senate came as no surprise – for months the 37 year old has dropped some not-so-subtle hints that he planned to challenge Senator Claire McCaskill in 2018. What was somewhat of a surprise, however, was that Petersen was deciding to switch parties.

The decision to run as a Republican wasn’t easy for Petersen, and in his farewell letter to the Libertarian Party, Petersen describes what led to him making such a decision;

For the last eight weeks, I’ve spent six hours a day calling my supporters to ask them their thoughts on how I might best advance liberty. I took the time to listen to every single persons’ opinion about a potential opportunity to seek a seat in the U.S. Senate here in my home state of Missouri.

Of the thousands of people I spoke to, all encouraged a run, hundreds donated, and the vast majority offered their opinion regarding which party I should align with. Over 98% of them, including registered Libertarians, independents, Republicans, and even Democrats, said to run GOP.

Those who think that running as a Republican would show Petersen’s “true colors” were right. During his 30 minute speech to the crowd, Petersen passionately discussed the issues that matter most to him; repealing and not replacing Obamacare, reducing regulation, auditing the Pentagon to find bureaucratic waste, criminal justice reform, lowering taxes, treating drug addiction as a public health problem instead of a criminal issue, etc. If his platform sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same set of values he ran on while seeking the Libertarian nomination for president last summer.  

Petersen’s announcement came one day after establishment favorite, Representative Ann Wagner, announced she will not challenge Claire McCaskill in 2018. In her statement on said decision, Wagner rationalized her decision;

“While I am grateful for the incredible support and encouragement I have received from across Missouri to run for United States Senate, I am announcing today my intention to run for re-election to the United States House of Representatives in 2018. The 2nd District is my home. It’s where I grew up, went to school, have worked and volunteered, raised my kids, and attend church every week — there is no greater honor than representing a place and people that I love.”

The former US Ambassador to Luxembourg has several reasons not to run for Senate, as the “Washington Examiner” reported;

“Republicans close to the congresswoman stressed that the decision had little, if anything, to do with the politics of giving up her relatively safe seat to run for Senate with an unpopular Republican in the White House and a healthcare agenda that has been rejected by a broad cross-section of Americans.”

With Wagner withdrawing her name from consideration, attention shifts to other potential Republican nominees. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Vicky Hartzler are both expected to explore their own senate runs, but it is Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley that seems to be the establishment favorite.  The 37 year old is a favorite of Mitch McConnell, and has only been on his current job for six months. Supporters have  urged him to run believing Hawley can unite all conservatives.  

While the charismatic Hawley has made waves recently for suing three pharmaceutical companies in the state (which could be seen as a political counter measure since Claire McCaskill has made opiod abuse a focus) friends of liberty should be wary of throwing their support behind a candidate supported by political insiders. After all, there are enough Senators who wax poetically about the virtue of the Constitution and civil liberties, right up until the point where they support warrant-less wiretaps.

While Hawley, if he announces his intent to run, may be the favorite heading into the Republican primary, Petersen is hoping to use Missouri’s own primary rules against them.

Missouri holds an “open primary” meaning that any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the Republican primary.  Petersen hopes that this will play to his advantage as he intends to seek support not only among the base, but among Libertarians and Independents as well.  If Petersen is able to successfully convey his message, he could not only win the nomination, but pose a real challenge to McCaskill as well.

Weed Has Benefits Lets Not Crush the CARER’s Act

 

This week the crotchety neighbor nobody likes, Jeff Sessions, sent a letter to congressional leadership demanding that they roll back the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which, for years, has protected medical marijuana dispensaries, and patients, from federal prosecution.  To the surprise of Jeff Sessions, this decision was met with some pretty heavy backlash.  Rohrabacher-Farr currently protects patients and businesses in 29 states, with another 12 states set to vote on medical marijuana later this year.

Thankfully, Senators  Paul, Booker, and Gillibrand re-introduced  legislation on Thursday to circumvent our Attorney Generals attempts;

“The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States, or CARERS, Act would effectively change the Controlled Substances Act, allowing the possession, production and distribution of medical marijuana in states with established marijuana laws.”

The CARERS Act prevents federal government from prosecuting individuals and businesses in possession of medical marijuana in states where it’s legal.

Despite Session’s claims to the contrary, there have been multiple studies done on the effects of medical marijuana, including one by Harvard from 2016.  Patients like Pamela Jacobson, of “The Hope Grows Foundation” have used cannabis oil for pain management, and have seen dramatic improvements to their health.  But patients like Pamela run risk of being prosecuted, hopefully the CARERS Act passes, and encourages more states to pass their own MMJ legislation.

Mississippi Has a Drug Problem, Jeff Sessions Thinks He Knows Why

 

 

 

On Saturday, the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, based out of Jackson, MS, released a detailed report outlining an uptick in deaths associated with drug overdoses. The number of deaths involving overdoses has more than doubled since 2000.  Among overdoses, the most common victims are white men between the ages of 25-54.  Among this demographic, deaths involving opioids has increased by 265% in the same period of time.  Not to be outdone, opioid deaths among women have increased by 400%, according to the CDC.  

 

According to the Clarion-Ledger, Mississippi is among several states that has more opioid prescriptions than citizens, in fact every citizen of Mississippi could take a prescription pill a day, for over sixty days, without bleeding the state dry.  

 

Opioid abuse is only the beginning. Prescription painkillers are expensive, and the cost to obtain some Oxycontin is so high, it prices many addicts out of the painkiller market; leaving them to turn to the much cheaper, much stronger world of heroin. Mississippi saw a record-high 211 deaths asso

ciated with opioids in 2016, the state has also seen a steady increase in heroin related deaths, and deaths associated with “drug poisoning.” The majority of this country’s heroin is imported by Mexican Cartels, who have been lacing their heroin with fentanyl; which is cheaper than heroin, and  100 times stronger than morphine.

 

Jeff Sessions has made a baffling connection between heroin, opiods, and marijuana.

This all leads to the letter sent by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to congressional leaders on June 13th.  In this letter, Sessions expresses his displeasure with the “Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment “ which limits the Justice Department’s ability to crack down on medical marijuana. Sessions cites the growing drug epidemic in this country. In his letter,  he doubts the effectiveness of medical marijuana, and says we need to do something about heroin in this country. So instead of taking power away from pharmaceutical companies, he wants to go after medical marijuana, an issue that a recent Quinnipiac survey  (ironically released on 4/20/17) found 94% support for among voting age Americans. In his letter to congressional leaders, the physical embodiment of the war on drugs states that there is no medical use for marijuana, which is in direct contrast  to two studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  The NIDA reported that:

 

Some preliminary studies have suggested that medical marijuana legalization might be associated with decreased prescription opioid use and overdose deaths, but researchers don’t have enough evidence yet to confirm this finding. For example, one NIDA-funded study suggested a link between medical marijuana legalization and fewer overdose deaths from prescription opioids.1 But this study didn’t show that medical marijuana legalization caused the decrease in deaths or that pain patients changed their drug-taking behavior.2,3 A more detailed NIDA-funded analysis showed that legally protected medical marijuana dispensaries, not just medical marijuana laws, were also associated with a decrease in the following:4

 

  • opioid prescribing
  • self-reports of opioid misuse
  • treatment admissions for opioid addiction

 

Additionally, data suggests that medical marijuana treatment may reduce the opioid dose prescribed for pain patients,5,6 and a recent study showed that availability of medical marijuana for Medicare patients reduced prescribing of medications, including opioids, for their pain.7 NIDA is funding additional studies to determine the link between medical marijuana use and the use or misuse of opioids for pain

 

It seems that if Jeff Sessions really wanted to take the nation’s drug epidemic seriously, than he would let states be laboratories of democracy.  Instead, because of his proclamation, states with a real problem, like Mississippi, are hesitant to explore other options to curb addiction.