Obama Backs Medical Marijuana, Admits He Inhaled

Barack Obama supports, with some reservations, legalization of medical marijuana. He not only admits that when he tried marijuana he inhaled, he mocks Bill Clinton’s denial:

When a voter asked Obama if he was for the legalization of medical marijuana, Obama said that he wasn’t in favor of legalization without scientific evidence and tight controls. Citing his mother who died from cancer young, Obama compared marijuana to morphine saying there was little difference between the two.

“My attitude is if the science and the doctors suggest that the best palliative care and the way to relieve pain and suffering is medical marijuana then that’s something I’m open to because there’s no difference between that and morphine when it comes to just giving people relief from pain,” Obama said. “But I want to do it under strict guidelines. I want it prescribed in the same way that other painkillers or palliative drugs are prescribed.”

But he added that he was concerned that the reasons for the use of marijuana would grow and create a “slippery slope.”

“I was feeling really tense, so I needed a joint,” Obama joked with the crowd of those who might try and undermine that type of system.

The question was followed up by another voter asking him, “Unlike other presidents, did you inhale?”

“I did,” Obama said to loud applause and laughter. “It’s not something that I’m proud of. It was a mistake … But you know, I’m not going to.  I never understood that line. The point was to inhale. That was the point.”

Mark Halperin Realizes What Is Wrong With Political Coverage, Again

Deep down Mark Halperin knows what is wrong with political coverage. The problem is that, despite realizing it, he continues to make the same mistakes. In The Way to Win Halperin described the freak show which dominates political coverage. He noted how Matt Drudge often presents unsubstantiated information as fact which is then repeated elsewhere. However instead of using this knowledge to improve political coverage he called Drudge “the Walter Cronkite of his era” and continued to repeat unsubstantiated claims from Drudge, along with many Republican talking points, as news.

In an op-ed in The New York Times Halperin again shows that on one level he knows what is wrong with political coverage which concentrates on the horse race as opposed to whether the candidate is capable of making a good president. He admits he was wrong in presenting past coverage which cared more about whether a candidate like George Bush could present the illusion of being principled than what he was actually advocating and whether he was qualified to be president.

The question is not whether Halperin can articulate what is wrong with political coverage but whether he can change. Based upon his response to understanding what is wrong with the freak show in the past, I’m not very optimistic.

Paul Supporters Take on Rudy Giuliani


Despite his flaws, Ron Paul continues to serve a useful position in the campaign by being the one Republican voice criticizing the war and the Patriot Act. The Paul supporters are increasingly taking on Rudy Giuliani:

Attempts to cut back on government surveillance and “aggressive questioning” of suspected terrorists are irresponsible and undercut the country’s war on terrorism, Republican Rudy Giuliani said this weekend.

“Talking about cutting back on the Patriot Act, talking about cutting back on electronic surveillance, talking about cutting back on aggressive questioning — not torture, but aggressive questioning — wanting to remove our soldiers from Iraq in a way that would require them to give the enemy a time table of their retreat,” Giuliani said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything more irresponsible than that.”

The remarks came late in a Saturday of campaigning in the state of New Hampshire, the first of a two-day tour through the early primary state. Shortly after that address, Giuliani headed out for the Holiday Stroll in downtown Nashua, where supporters of GOP candidate Ron Paul accompanied him for most of his visit.

As Giuliani walked down Main Street shaking hands and wandering in and out of shops, the Paul supporters encircled his entourage and waved their candidate’s signs as they walked.

Paul, a congressman from Texas, opposes the Patriot Act, which he once called “a moratorium on constitutional rights.”

Ron Paul has been taking on Rudy Giuliani since he conflicted with Giuliani in the early Republican debates. (Video of interview with Paul following the debate above). Some of Paul’s supporters have also been highlighting their differences with Giuliani such as at sites like Rudy’s Reading List.

Taking on Giuliani makes sense not only because Giuliani is the front runner but because, despite their significant differences of opinion, they are both seeking the votes of those looking for a more libertarian alternative to the mainstream Republican Party. Many who have only superficially looked at Giuliani’s record falsely believe he is a social liberal and do not realize how hostile to freedom Giuliani is. A closer look at Giuliani’s record shows that he was never the moderate which many believe he was and that he would exacerbate the problems of concentrating power in the Executive Branch created by Bush and Cheney.

I hope to see a serious debate over the issues between the Paul and Giuliani camps rather than a repeat of the incidents seen following the Republican conference on Mackinac Island in September. I do have a couple of words of advice for the Paul supporters. First of all, watch your behavior. Keep this an intellectual debate. If you are seen as simply trying to shout down your opponents your message will no longer be heard.

Secondly, stick to the issues of Iraq and the Patriot Act and keep conspiracy theories out of this. If you bring up Giuliani’s membership in the Council on Foreign Relations, claim his views on guns are part of a United Nation conspiracy to disarm everybody, or that 9/11 was an inside job your arguments will not be taken seriously.

Candidate Accuses Fox News of Bias


An accusation of bias against Fox News is hardly news, unless the accusation comes from a Republican candidate. Fred Thompson might be right that Fox has been biased against him as the connections between Roger Ailes and Rudy Giulinai are well known. Thompson made an accusation of bias by Fox News in an interview (video above) with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

The Republican Tiny Tent

The Republican Party is rapidly turning into a minority party which is becoming limited to the south and diminishing portions of the west. They have driven out their moderates and only limited views are allowed in the party. Mark Steyn tries to argue otherwise but it is clear he doth protest too much.

Steyn argues that the Republicans offer an anti-war candidate. This is true but means little. Ron Paul does support getting out of the war but he polls at only around five percent and much of his support comes from people who generally do not vote Republican. The vast majority of Republicans support the war. On related issues regarding the war on terror they only disagree on points such as whether Guitanimo should be preserved as is or doubled in size.

Steyn argues that there is a pro-abortion candidate. Giuliani somewhat supports abortion but promises to appoint judges who will help outlaw it. Giuliani also opposes so-called “partial birth” abortions, supports parental notification laws, and supports the Hyde amendment which prohibits federal funding for most abortions under Medicaid. Support for abortion remains a minority view in the Republican Party, and Giuliani’s slightly moderate views are so radical to the Republicans that many are considering supporting a third party if Giuliani gets the nomination.

Despite the attempts by Republicans to pretend they have a big tent, they have a very tiny tent which is dominated by the social policies of the religious right and the foreign policy of the neoconservatives.

Why Freedom Loving Americans Are Not All Libertarians

Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, editors of the libertarian magazine Reason, have an op-ed in The Washington Post where they see having a candidate who polls at around five percent as being a sign of a revolution. The two are correct in pointing out trends, many of which I’ve discussed here in the past, of a desire for greater freedom. I’ve often noted the trend for “Starbucks Republicans” and “South Park Republicans” to break with the GOP over its support for the war and the social agenda of the religious right. Similarly I’ve commended Democrats for opposing the war and restrictions on civil liberties (even if more weakly than I would like) but have warned that if they return to “tax and spend” economic policies which have unfortunately become associated with liberalism they will become a minority party for yet another generation.

With these trends, why are libertarians in general and Ron Paul in particular only supported by a small minority? There are a number of reasons for this.

Libertarianism, especially as advocated by Ron Paul, is not the only pro-freedom philosophy and in some cases does not advocate freedom as seen by most Americans. Most see freedom in terms of how government impacts their lives, not whether the Federal Reserve is ended or American returns to the gold standard. Americans who reject the social policies of the religious right will find many of the same faults in Ron Paul, who denies that the founding fathers envisioned a secular society characterized by separation of church and state and who claims that the founding fathers envisioned the United States as a Christian nation. Paul’s support for federal legislation banning so-called partial birth abortions and legislation to eliminate the legal distinction between a zygote and a fully developed human contradict his claims of both supporting freedom and supporting state’s rights. Accepting such anti-scientific ideas is particularly disturbing considering his training in Obstetrics.

The stress for state’s rights is also not what most Americans are looking for when seeking freedom. What matters is the relationship between the individual and government, regardless of level of government. Turning duties performed by the federal government over to the states might sometimes be good, but this is not necessarily a matter of greater freedom. Often it is the reverse. Paul’s lack of acceptance of the 14th Amendment, which extended Constitutional liberties from the federal government to the states, could result in less freedom. It is often necessary to protect the rights of the minority from the majority. It is far easier to gain a majority to restrict liberties in a state or local area as opposed to nationally, which is why many white supremacists and neo-Nazis support Paul, realizing that his philosophy would inadvertently help them promote their goals.

Another reason most Americans do not support libertarians is that, while generally skeptical of government, most do believe that government is needed in some areas. Katrina demonstrated both where government is needed and why political leaders who always claim government is the problem and not the solution are incapable of meeting the legitimate needs for government. The free market provides for most goods and services more efficiently than government, but there are some areas where the market fails. For example, the free market does a poor job of providing health care to the individual market as insurance companies have a financial incentive to simply deny coverage to those likely to cost them money. While conservative politicians offer a number of ineffective solutions, most voters do realize that government is needed to reform the system. Government is also needed to encourage a transfer to new energy sources, both in response to global warming and to bring about energy independence.

Support for Ron Paul will also be limited by the belief by Paul and many of his supporters in a number of conspiracy theories involving the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. People are not going to turn to those whose sanity they doubt regardless of whether they agree with Paul on issues such as opposing the war, opposing current drug laws, and in defending civil liberties.

Polls Turning Against Chavez in Venezuela

Venezuela under Hugo Chávez has appeared to be on its way to becoming a socialist dictatorship with plans to end term limits and give him more control over regional governments.  There is some good news today as polls now show that a majority has turned against supporting him in the upcoming referendum:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has lost his lead eight days before a referendum on ending his term limit, an independent pollster said on Saturday, in a swing in voter sentiment against the Cuba ally.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters oppose Chavez’s proposed raft of constitutional changes to expand his powers, compared with 39 percent in favor, a survey by respected pollster Datanalisis showed.

Just weeks ago, Chavez had a 10-point lead for his proposed changes in the OPEC nation that must be approved in a referendum, the polling company said.

Chávez says only a traitor would vote against him  a comment which sounds a lot the views expressed by some Republicans that anyone who votes against them supports the terrorists:

President Hugo Chavez warned his supporters on Friday that anyone voting against his proposed constitutional changes would be a “traitor,” rallying his political base before a referendum that would let him seek unlimited re-election in 2012 and beyond.

Are Americans Conspiracy Theorists?

Scripps Howard News Service believes that many Americans believe in conspiracy theories:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans think it is possible that some federal officials had specific warnings of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, but chose to ignore those warnings, according to a Scripps Howard News Service/Ohio University poll.

A national survey of 811 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps and Ohio University found that more than a third believe in a broad smorgasbord of conspiracy theories including the attacks, international plots to rig oil prices, the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the government’s knowledge of intelligent life from other worlds.

The high percentage is a manifestation, some say, of an American public that increasingly distrusts the federal government.

“You wouldn’t have gotten these numbers a year or two after the attacks themselves,” said University of Florida law professor Mark Fenster. “You’ve got an increasingly disaffected public that is unhappy with the administration.”

Fenster, author of the book “Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture,” attributed the high percentage in part to the findings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (also called the 9/11 Commission), which concluded federal officials failed to prevent the attacks, but did not have specific knowledge of the date of the attacks.

I suspect that the reported number of two-thirds is exaggerated by how the questions were asked. Asking if something is possible is far different than asking if people think it is likely to be true. It is possible that there are aliens visiting and the government is covering it up, but I don’t think that it is likely. If the question was asked another way we might get totally different results about 9/11. A majority might believe it is possible the government knew about the attacks, but if asked whether they believe 9/11 was an inside job and the twin towers collapsed due to a controlled demolition I bet a majority would say they did not believe this.

Asking about having specific warnings is also vague. If by specific warnings they mean that the government knew that planes would fly into the twin towers on September 11, then I do not believe this. However, if specific warnings refers to the warnings that al Qaeda planned a terrorist attack using planes and the Bush administration ignored this we are dealing with what has already been demonstrated as fact.

Choosing to ignore warnings could also be interpreted different ways. I do not believe that if the Bush administration had credible warnings of a specific plan of attack they would intentionally ignore them and let an attack occur. However it is known that the Bush administration did ignore multiple more general warnings including warnings passed down from the Clinton administration about al Qaeda and the warnings in the Daily Intelligence Brief. This is most likely because they did not believe that a non-government organization could really do harm to the country and not out of an evil plan to let an attack occur. It would be very easy for a person to answer yes to the questions asked depending how they interpreted them without believing anything more than what has already been proven but without believing in any type of conspiracy theory.