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September 27, 2012

Paleomagnetic Shifts, Science, and Politics

The concept that Earth’s polarity periodically undergoes a major shift, although not completely understood, has now been developed to a degree that allows scientists to use it as one of several tools available for dating events that took place long before human observers even existed.

Indeed, without an understanding of “deep time” as postulated by early geologists, the young Charles Darwin couldn't have arrived at the first tentative explanations of phenomena he witnessed while on a three week stopover in the Galapagos during what eventually become a monumental five-year voyage.

It would require the work of thousands of others over nearly 150 years to refine the tentative conclusions he presented in the Origin of Species into a Theory of Evolution that wasn't fully vindicated until well after his death by publication of the the molecular structure of DNA in 1953.

Even so, there are still people who hate Darwin, simply because the evolutionary theory he's identified with is powerful circumstantial evidence against traditional concepts of an omnipotent deity. Darwin himself was very aware of those implications from both his own doubts and those expressed by his remarkably supportive wife, Emma. Still later, he would be forcefully reminded of them when the spectacular suicide of Fitzroy, his Captain, eerily repeated the history of both the Beagle's original captain and Fitzroy's own family.

Indeed, the sequence of improbable events that had to take place before Darwin's work could be brought to the attention of those able to complete it raises a compelling question: what if he hadn't survived to publish either Survival of the Fittest or the Voyage of the Beagle?

The same provocative question could be asked about another unique person, one born a continent away, but improbably, on the same day. Tragically, Lincoln would not survive to complete his life work as Darwin had. Instead, he would be murdered by an an assassin typical of the hate-ridden young nation he'd saved from self-destruction during his incredible first term as its 16th President.

Whether Darwin of Lincoln was more important to world history is, of course, speculative. However, the species Darwin helped explain scientifically and the nation Lincoln preserved may both be headed for self-destruction for the same biological reason: an evolutionary flaw that has preserved the connections between our emotional and rational centers, an explanation of human behavior first proposed by neurologist Paul MacLean.

We are the only mammals who commit murder and suicide for emotional reasons. Oh, yes; the Paleomagnetic shift in the title has been imitated by the "Party of Lincoln," which is now dominated by hatred and in control of most of the state houses in former Confederate states.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 07:55 PM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2012

Some Nuances of Presidential Pot Use

As this most bizarre of election campaigns lurches towards November 6, I'm finding that many of its confusing issues have been clarified for me by my (now) ten year study of cannabis applicants, while both the DEA and "reform" continue to demonstrate they haven’t a clue about either pot's amazing medical value or the extent of the harm done by its prohibition. That’s primarily because their own thinking about cannabis begins with its inhalation by large numbers of young people in the Sixties, the same phenomenon that inspired urgent drafting of the Controlled Substances Act by the Nixon Administration in 1970. By then, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act had already faded from the memory of the relatively few pre-boomers able to remember Harry Anslinger. It has also surprised me to learn that Harry J is simply a pre-hippy bogey-man to most younger applicants- if they remember him at all.

The timeline developed as a by-product of my applicant profile also confirms that what inspired NORML to begin its full-time advocacy for "Marijuana Reform" in 1972 was the flood of youthful arrests by local police enthusiastically applying John Mitchell’s (bogus) Schedule One algorithm. Ironically, the DEA, which didn't exist until Nixon created it with an Executive Order in 1973, was born without a coherent clinical theory of pot use; thus it had rely on an amalgam of imagination and dogma to counter the (somewhat better) rhetorical arguments used against the CSA by NORML from 1972 on.

No wonder both sides remain confused: they have been locked in a four decade argument between lawyers about straw men created by two other lawyers named Mitchell and Nixon; the whole world was also blocked from any possibility of gathering objective data from users until 1996. Another shocking reality is that the first, and most harmful, medical endorsement of the CSA came from psychiatrists and psychologists who misinterpreted early incomplete data as showing a ”gateway” effect that many still cling to despite its acknowledged incongruity.

A further irony is that my applicant profile suggests President Obama would have been an early pot initiate, and most likely, a serious "head." Newly available evidence confirms he was both. I’m also reasonably sure his desire for a political career led him to give up weed, probably between Punahoa and Columbia, maybe while at Occidental College in LA when he would have realized that the longer his toking could be documented, the harder it would be to dismiss as "youthful indiscretion." Finally, abstinence from pot could have led to his difficult-to-quit cigarette addiction.

Finally, I'm reasonably certain that if Obama’s Presidency extends beyond November, he'd be able to grasp the significance of his upbringing by a single mother; possibly to the point of restraining or even dissolving the DEA, especially in view of its creation by a notorious liar. The DEA has never undergone serious scrutiny, let alone received formal Congressional approval.

In comparison a President Romney, would be a disaster; rigidly opposed to any medical use; more likely committed to driving it back underground as US Attorney Melinda Haag has been quite successful at recently.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2012

American Tea Parties

The United states has experienced two “tea parties”. The first was in Boston while Massachusetts was still a British colony; it was motivated by resentment over the taxes demanded by the British Crown to finance the expenses of Empire after discovering what great wealth could accrue from ruling a string of distant colonies from which raw materials and labor could be obtained cheaply. An added bonus was that when “colonials,” became loyal subjects, could be induced, by various means to favor British goods over those of Britain’s rivals: generally other European nations playing the colonial game, but with a later start and less powerful navies.

Massachusetts Colony had been populated by British subjects, many of whom had emigrated in search of the religious freedoms being denied them at home. Ironically, once established, successful Colonies tended to favor the more dominant faiths over religious minorities. Otherwise, they were culturally British and quite hip to the colonization game; thus they were the first to become resentful of their second-class status and to rebel against the crown. The Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre quickly became hallowed icons for what was a signal event: the first-ever successful colonial rebellion against British rule. That the 13 rebellious Colonies would eventually become the most powerful military and financial power on earth is now a matter of history, but could not have been predicted in the late Eighteenth Century. That it will remain such was almost certainly not divinely ordained, despite what a majority of its present citizens may assume.

Nor does it take much imagination to see the “Tea Party” movement that flared recently within the right wing of the Republican Party as inspired by an almost identical resentment over taxation in a more modern context: its founders clearly resent being taxed to finance programs from which they do not directly benefit: education, medical care for the poor and the elderly, maintenance of America’s global alliances, and more latterly: the temporary salvation of its auto industry. Whether the essentially selfish expressions of emotion expressed by "Tea Party"activists will hurt or hinder the Republican Party in the coming election remains to be seen.

That the colonists who staged the original tea party were dressed as Indians when they dumped casks of tea into Boston Harbor is ironic, given the treatment of “Native Americans” in the nation that eventually became the United States. Even more ironic is that the tea came from China which was then demanding payments in silver which had become so onerous that the British were exporting opium from their province in Bengal to offset the cost of Chinese tea, silks and ceramics demanded by British consumers, a practice the Emperor attempted to offset with the first international attempt at drug prohibition. Its failure produced the first Opium War, which was won by superior British weaponry and cost China Hong Kong island. A second opium war, fought two decades later over the same issue had a similar outcome. By adding the Kowloon peninsula to Hong Kong island it produced what eventually became a thriving financial entity in its own right. After Hong Kong and Kowloon were returned to China in 1997, they became a bi-cultural umbilical cord through which Western Technology was quickly and smoothly delivered to a highly competitive nation whose talented people are now forced by their own leaders to subsidize Western consumption with their labor in what seems to be an attempt to provide China with leverage in world affairs through non-military means; rather than through the ruinous weapons competition that bankrupted the Soviet union.

Two of many wild cards are the impact and rapidity of the global climate change that now seems assured will have on global ecology and the commercial markets dependent on weather and habitat.

That the Chinese people have been patiently nursing a desire for their own thriving auto industry is not a good sign.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2012

Help from an unexpected Source

No sooner did I lament the lack of political attention to my favorite issue in the last entry than Paul Ryan became the first major party candidate to mention medical marijuana. Not only that, he did so almost positively. Not personally, mind you, but from from a states rights perspective. What was he thinking? Doesn't he realize that his running mate is obligated to be decisively anti-pot? Hasn't he done his home work?

Ryan's gaffe even came with a bonus; it strengthened Obama's chances of re-election.

So far, the early media response has been muted, timid, and confused. No surprise there. They are so used to being DEA lap dogs they don't know how to speculate intelligently about such a taboo subject; even when it's been raised by a major candidate. It should be interesting to see just how the pot issue, once raised, is dealt with by both the media and the Democrats, neither of whom are distinguished by their honesty or curiosity about America's most indefensible and destructive policy.

Nearly as interesting for me will be how effectively my colleagues in the "reform" movement will be able to get their own act together. Will they finally be able to get the ball rolling?

It's a golden opportunity.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2012

Post Convention Thoughts

As yet another Presidential campaign grinds toward its November conclusion, its strident debates have become as revealing for what is never discussed by either party, as opposed to the issues they wrangle over incessantly. Specifically, neither mentions the perennial failure of American drug policy, let alone how the scope of that failure was increased dramatically right after the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1970.

In fact, considerable popular dissatisfaction with our drug policy is evidenced by the existence of "medical marijuana" laws in a third of all US states and the fact that similar laws remain under active consideration in an increasing number of others. Nevertheless, the federal government continues to insist that "herbal" cannabis cannot possibly be medicine and neither political party has taken a stand on the issue in the 16 years since Proposition 215 was approved by California voters in 1996.

On the political front, despite the partisan differences that erupt every four years over taxes, national defense, and other "social" issues, the drug "war" that began almost immediately after passage of the CSA in 1970 continues to receive bipartisan support.

That should be amazing, especially when one realizes that the CSA was based entirely on the medically incompetent assertions of US Attorney General John Mitchell in 1969 at the behest of his Watergate buddy, then-President Richard Nixon. Mitchell's excursion into Pharmacology was clearly prompted by the Supreme Court's unexpected decision, in a case involving LSD guru Timothy Leary: that the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act was unconstitutional on Fifth Amendment grounds.

Nixon needed Mitchell's rhetorical help because he was under attack by a youthful peace movement for escalating the increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam; the Court's decision not only took away federal power over "marijuana," it also threatened the Harrison Act by which the feds had arrogated the power to "regulate" opium and coca products in 1914. In other words, the Court had, perhaps unwittingly, threatened all federal jurisdiction over drugs, something the punitive Nixon could not have tolerated under any circumstances.

That the drug war is an abject policy failure has been an open secret since the late William F. Buckley Jr. first said so in print in 1995. Twenty-seven years after Buckley and forty-two years of Drug War defeats, that's hardly news. The question its victims (who serve the time and foot the bill) should really be be asking is what would it take to at least mitigate such a rip-off policy failure?

Perhaps the answer may be revealed by another question: why did Hitler's Third Reich fail in a dozen years, while Fidel Castro has retained control of Cuba since 1959, despite intense American hostility?

The answer is that Hitler and Germany committed mutual suicide by attacking too many enemies in too short a time. Castro, on the other hand, has skillfully retained control of Cuba by exploiting his advantages. The closest he, Cuba, (and the world) came to nuclear war was when Kruschchev was forced to back down after smuggling nuclear weapons into Cuba in 1962.

The lesson seems to be that wars that don't threaten their antagonists with destruction can be fought indefinitely; especially if they manage to reward all sides. Those conditions were admirably met by America's war on drugs; especially after the CSA became UN policy retroactively upon passage: drug "criminals" are rewarded by enhanced profits, law enforcement agencies, by guaranteed budgets and enhanced opportunities for graft, and "rogue" nations- Mexico and Colombia- for example, have learned to tolerate illegal drug production and smuggling on an industrial scale for the increased foreign exchange they generate. Oh yes; all it takes to create a brand new illegal market under the CSA is an administrative decision by whoever happens to be the American AG.

Given the emotional nature of "drug" issues and the enormous reluctance of politicians to admit old mistakes, we may have a long wait before any American President would risk modifying the CSA.

That said, I'm sure an Obama Administration would be a lot more open to the idea of ratcheting down the drug war than one led by a (Mormon) President Romney.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)