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October 30, 2013

Congressional Hearings

This morning I spent the first hour of my day watching the Congressional hearings on “Obamacare,” live on TV. They were conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chaired by GOP stalwart Fred Upton of Michigan as a typically partisan interrogation of Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s attractive and articulate Secretary of HHS. Unfortunately, further investigation of her stance on medical marijuana reveals that Sibelius, like her boss, is still living in the shadow of Richard Nixon when it comes to thinking of cannabis as a useful therapeutic agent.

Predictably, I found the mindset of the individual representatives typical of their political parties: Republicans were hostile to the ACA from the get-go and oblivious to the fact that America still lags every modern European nation in the ability to provide high-tech interventional care to its citizens. In other words, still reflecting the menu of elitist prejudices that have generally characterized the GOP since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. GOP members were openly hostile to both the ACA and Sibelius, although some were more gentlemanly than others.

Dems, on the other hand, were much more considerate- especially the women. Perhaps the quickest way to characterize the differences between political parties is that Republicans were so opposed to anything having to do with Obama that they seem willing- indeed anxious- to throw out the baby of “Medical Care” with the bathwater of an obviously troubled plan to improve it. In retrospect, all-too reminiscent of the invidious "Harry and Louise" ads that sank Hillary Clinton's ill fated effort to reform health care delivery back in 1993.

The major weakness of Medicare- LBJ’s limited 1965 attempt to deal with the same failures, was that it tied funding to Social Security, as opposed to employment- had happened from the earliest days of WW2.

Ironically, the best explanation I’ve yet heard of how that particular phenomenon had come to be was by lawyer Joseph Califano, who'd been Jimmy Carter’s Secretary of HEW and has remained a stubborn drug war hawk with a particular need to vilify both cannabis and tobacco. In fact, it might have been Califano’s anti- tobacco stance that prompted Carter to fire him prematurely.

Be that as it may, what I remember with particular disfavor from my earliest days in drug policy reform is Califano’s blatant arrogation of medical expertise as founder and chief spokesman for CASA, which coincided with my own discovery- between 1997 and 2001- of the logical absurdity of America’s mistaken drug war, which had been to repeat the mistake of alcohol Prohibition.

In fact, Califano’s writings on the subject often betray a nostalgic fondness for the absurd idea that we gave up too soon on Prohibition in 1933- as if a few more years of futility and mob violence would been better than never attempting to change human behavior with an ill-conceived "experiment."

What I now understand, along with the current editorial staff of Columbia’s student newspaper, is that Califano’s militant ideas on “Addiction” are an embarrassment to their University.

I'd also be willing to bet that quite a few members of that staff had tried Marijuana themselves; but I realize that in the current political climate it isn't politic to cop to a Federal offense that could hurt them and embarrass their institution.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at October 30, 2013 08:05 PM