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Why I’ll be voting for legal weed in November

In November 2014, Alaskan voters will be asked whether to legalize marijuana use for people over 21. It is 2014 Ballot Measure 2 and I will be voting yes. I am telling you this despite my reluctance to comment on State of Alaska issues because I think this is a matter of justice.

 

I am voting yes because: Alcohol is more harmful than marijuana.

If alcohol is legal, so should marijuana. According to the CDC:

Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death. This dangerous behavior accounted for approximately 88,000 deaths per year from 2006–2010, and accounted for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20–64 years.

88,000 deaths from over drinking. Per year. That’s nearly 30 9/11s each and every year. But we accept these deaths as the price of liberty. Or we don’t accept them but realize that Prohibition has been tried and failed in this country. By contrast, there are zero documented deaths from marijuana. It’s hard prove a negative, but:

If you can find a reliable (sourced from a peer-reviewed journal or government publication) that can attribute more than 88,000 deaths per year to marijuana products, leave a comment with full citation.

Aside from being deadly to people who drink, alcohol is associated with higher likelihood of domestic violence, while marijuana is not.

I have personal and painful experience to the power of alcohol to produce violence and misery. My father beat my mom and my siblings, usually while drunk. I do not recall being beaten, but I lived in perpetual fear of being next. I was drunkenly cussed out many times and Christmas time was usually more pleasant if he was out on a drunk.  I actually had nightmares involving my drunk father for several years after I moved away from home. So again, if we can allow something as poisonous to family life as alcohol in our society, I’d be grateful to legalize something that wasn’t quite as violence stimulating.

In addition to being less harmful than alcohol, it appears that legalizing marijuana, at least for medical use actually decreases deaths from painkiller overdoses by about 25%.

Marijuana use does have its risks. Check out any of the fact sheets I’ve linked to. I’m just saying they pale in comparison to the chaos and death rained down upon us all by alcohol. We manage to keep society mostly intact despite alcohol’s assault. Marijuana will be a cinch to handle in comparison.

 

I am voting yes because: Too many lives have been ruined by possession arrests and convictions.

Once you get caught up in the justice system, it’s easy to get into a downward spiral. You get a drug conviction and people find excuses not to hire you. You may no longer be eligible to go to college. You might go to prison for a simple possession offense and learn new ways of crime while behind bars.

According to the Alaska State Troopers 2012 Drug Report, over 3,000 marijuana related arrests were made between 2010 and 2012. For a drug with no known overdose deaths and which isn’t associated with domestic violence. I think that it is a tragedy that thousands of lives were fed into our justice system for this.

Nationally, marijuana arrests disproportionately fall on people of color. According to the ACLU, “Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.” In some states, Blacks are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. We need to ditch something that has so much racial bias in its application.

 

I am voting yes because: I lean libertarian.

As a matter of principle, I don’t think the State has any business regulating consensual conduct that does not harm others. Your freedom to swing your fist may end at my nose, but you’re free to go up to that limit. For example, marijuana should be included in DUI laws. I don’t care if you smoke a few joints in your home. But if you then hop in your car and start driving, that’s a risk to others that can and should be regulated.

 

Those are the reasons that I will vote to legalize marijuana in this state. I believe people of good will can come to a different conclusion. So if you’re a friend of mine who is a “no” voter, I’m ok with that, though I expect you to be willing to agree to disagree.

 

References:

Summary of 2014 Ballot Measure 2 – http://www.elections.alaska.gov/doc/bml/BM2-13PSUM-ballot-language.pdf

Official Election Pamphlet General Election 2014, Book I – http://www.elections.alaska.gov/doc/oep/2014/AK-Region-I-book.pdf – Ballot Measure 2 begins on page 63 of the booklet. While the State provided a cost estimate for regulating marijuana, it did not include any information from the Department of Corrections. A recently Fairbanks News-Miner article estimated it cost $50,000 a year to house a prisoner, so any costs from legalizing marijuana would be partially offset from the savings realized by not putting marijuana users and small dealers away.

CDC Alcohol Deaths – http://www.cdc.gov/features/alcohol-deaths/

DrugFacts: Marijuana – http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

The Toxicity of Recreational Drugs – Alcohol is more lethal than many other commonly abused substances. By Robert Gable. New Scientist. May-June 2006, Volume 94, Number 3, Page: 206, DOI: 10.1511/2006.3.206 – http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/pub/the-toxicity-of-recreational-drugs/1

Fewer Painkiller Deaths in States With Medical Marijuana: Study People with chronic pain may use pot instead of narcotics, researchers suggest
Monday, August 25, 2014, Health Day News
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_148041.html

Cost of housing state’s prison population has senators seeking sentencing reform
Posted: Fairbanks Daily News Miner. Sunday, October 6, 2013 12:02 am | Updated: 5:42 am, Mon Oct 7, 2013.
By Matt Buxton/mbuxton@newsminer.com
URL: Not listed because too long. Click on title for story.

2012 Drug Report. Alaska State Troopers.  –  http://www.dps.alaska.gov/AST/ABI/docs/SDEUreports/2012%20Annual%20Drug%20Report.pdf

Marijuana Arrests by the Numbers. ACLUhttps://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/marijuana-arrests-numbers

 

“Preventive War” As bad an idea under Obama as under Bush

Note: You might want to check out my comment policy before proceeding as this topic has provoked a lot of emotion in the past. 


 

A major reason we (United States) invaded Iraq in 2003 was the Bush Doctrine that insisted we had to smash a future threat. Not a clear and present danger to the United States, but because of what Iraq MIGHT do to us later. We struck out of fear of the future. Because we were afraid, we kept a 100,000 troops in the country for ten years. In the process over 5,000 American soliders were killed and tens of thousands were badly injured. Estimates of Iraqi casualties vary widely, but conservatively at least 50,000 Iraqis died as a result of our invasion and occupation over and above the number who would have died if we have left well enough alone. We also spent over a trillion dollars.

Bush’s “preventive war” was a stupid, expensive and most of all, deadly idea. What did we get after a ten year occupation with 100,000 troops? A broken country that is more closely aligned with Iran than the United States.

You’d think that this deadly and experience would make us swear off “preventive war” forever. I thought so. But I was wrong. But President Obama now embraces it, in concept if not in scale. Here’s what he said in his “four point” strategy statement on 9/10/2014 (bolding mine):

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities.  If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States.  While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies.  Our Intelligence Community believes that thousands of foreigners -– including Europeans and some Americans –- have joined them in Syria and Iraq.  Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

A lot of coulds and ifs. That’s the basis that we want to carry out attacks on Syria against the wishes of that country’s admittedly unsavory government and outside of UN authorization. We violate international law and go to war on another Muslim country that is not involved in attacks on American soil because of what they MIGHT do later. That was a bad idea in 2003 and it’s a terrible idea now.

I admit that ISIL does pose a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, but we shouldn’t be the ones carrying out military actions: There are a number of reasons why, including:

Although President Obama’s proposed war on ISIS/ISIL is much smaller than President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, it will grow in size because if we couldn’t secure peace and stability in Iraq with a ten year occupation with 100,000 troops, the President’s measures won’t work. Rather than cutting our losses, we will once again “Stay the Course” and pour more and more resources and people into the Iraqi/Syrian black hole. And for what, for what someone MIGHT do LATER? This is madness again. Congress should put the brakes on it. Only I’m afraid they want to punch the accelerator. Again.

 

 

 

 

Alaskans! Time to get your library card!

September is National Library Card signup month. I’d like to encourage every Alaskan who does not yet have a library card to go out and get one. Even if you hate books. Because the library is about so much more than books. Though we will always love readers and find them good reads.

If you live in Anchorage, visit http://libguides.anchoragelibrary.org/MyAccount to learn how to get your free library card. Aside from free access to books, music and videos from libraries stretching from Valdez to Juneau, you’ll get free access to:

 

If you live in Fairbanks, visit http://fnsblibrary.org/?page_id=74 to learn how you can get your library card. Aside from all the physical items you’d expect to find in a library system, your library card will give you access to:

 

If you live in Juneau, visit http://www.juneau.org/library/services_circulation.php to learn how a library card can be yours. This card will give you access to all the physical collections of the same system Anchorage is a part of, plus additional resources including:

 

If you live somewhere else in Alaska, check out the Alaska Library Association’s Library Directory. It contacts contact information for every known library in Alaska. The people at your local library can tell you how to get a library card and what good stuff comes with it.

Getting a library card is free and easy. It puts you in touch with a world of information and entertainment, much of which cannot be freely (or in some cases legally) accessed over the open web. What’s holding you back? Step out today and get yours today. Before the snow falls.

 

 

Alaskans! Go Vote!

Today is primary election day in Alaska. Important decisions are at stake. Go out and vote!

That is all.

Review: Every Day is an Atheist Holiday

Every Day is an Atheist Holiday
Every Day is an Atheist Holiday by Penn Jillette
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you are put off by profanity or sexual talk, don’t even think about picking up this book of essays. Penn simply cannot go for more than two pages (on average) without the f-word or a reference to his privates and/or a sex act.

But if you can set aside your visceral reactions to the tenor of this book, it has some very interesting reflections on fatherhood, marriage, reality TV, blackmail, professional partnerships, stage magic and religion. I’d rather have a hundred Penns in Congress, turning the Congressional Record into something delivered in a plain brown wrapper, than one more Ted Cruz or Michelle Bachmann.

I’d give this book four stars if it wasn’t for the relentless profanity. To which, I’m willing to bet Penn would say F-You with a smile.

View all my reviews

Astronomy by Internet update – Dark Skies ISS

Armchair astronomers rejoice! I have updated my Astronomy by Internet page. The latest update introduces a new Solar System object – the Earth. 

The first project to appear here is Dark Skies ISS, a project posted by a Spanish led research team to the Crowdcrafting site, a site I wasn’t aware of until I read about on the NASA web site. 

From the project page:

Right now there are around 1,800,000 images at the Johnson Space Center database (The Gateway of the Astronauts). Around 1,200,000 images were taken aboard the ISS (date 02/20/2014). However, the number of classified images is much smaller, and there is no archive of georeferenced images. There is already a project to classify the daytime images (Image detective), but the techniques used in that project are not useful for the classification of nighttime images. The patterns on Earth are not the same during the day and night, which is why another technique is needed to classify these nighttime images.

 

Our main objective is to study light pollution that comes from cities. We want to stop the waste of energy and the destruction of the mighty ecosystem.

 

Your collaboration is really important because algorithms cannot distinguish between stars, cities, and other objects (i.e. moon). Thus, we need your help to assess the light pollution in our world!

 

For more information, please contact www.citiesatnight.org or Twitter handle: @cities4tnight.

Also you can contribute on our other apps Lost at night (find unlocated images) and NightCitiesISS(Georeference known cities).

I find Dark Skies ISS to be beautiful and sort of relaxing. And I’m contributing to mapping light pollution. A good deal for all sides. Consider giving it a whirl. If you know of other citizen/layperson science projects involving an astronomy theme, drop me a line. 

For Those Looking for Bible Verses that Support Polygamy

Recently I noticed a small jump in followers after posting Jacob the Polygamist Blessed by God. From skimming their blogs they seems to be folks with an interest in polyamory and/or polygamy/polygyny/plural marriage. Because I mostly believe in connecting information seekers with information, I want to use this blog post to point them to my series “Marriage = 1 Man/1 Woman NOT. So far there are ten posts in this category, including this one. The others are:

I’d also like to be clear about a few things. My purpose in creating this series was to debunk the natural law claims of opponents of same sex marriage. A number of religious figures, including Catholic Bishops keep making claims about how marriage has been “one man, one woman” from the beginning of time. In reality, human societies have seen a number of models for handling sexual relationships. If the natural law argument were valid, all but a few societies would have had one man/one woman marriages as the sole model for marriage. Just as practically all human societies have a visceral revulsion against incest.  But this isn’t the case. Not by a long shot.

But you don’t have to appeal to anthropology and its findings to rebut the Bishops. All you have to do is to actually open up the Bible. That’s what I did. And it’s part of the reason that I dropped out of the Catholic Church.

However, I think it would be wrong to say that the Bible unambiguously endorses polygamy. There are exactly two verses (not in all translations ) in the New Testament that COULD be interpreted to IMPLY that polygamous Christians were welcome in the church — just not as Bishops (King James Version):

Titus 1:6-9:

6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

 

1 Timothy 3: 1-6:

1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

 

Looking at these verses, one could be forgiven for thinking – “If they had to specify that bishops could only have one wife, then some men in the church had more.” Maybe. But other translations render “the husband of one wife” as “married only once” which could refer to widowers or divorced men. Without knowledge of Greek and access to an early manuscript, I really can’t say.

Also, pretty much every other mention of marriage in the New Testament specifies it as one man/one woman. The Woman at the Well in John Chapter 4 had five husbands at one point, but it is clear that Jesus disapproved of this.

But just because the New Testament defines marriage as between one woman and one man is not enough reason to mandate that in civil law. I am a Christian, but I don’t believe basing law on the Bible is any better than basing it on the Koran or on any other holy scripture. Civil law ought to based on a consensus of the people moderated by genuine natural law based norms and by the idea that people should be allowed to do what they like provided it does not harm another. In sexual matters, I see consent as key and that children and animals are de facto incapable of consent.

Finally, while I respect a person’s choice to choose polyamory with other consenting adults, I don’t consider myself an advocate. If you picked up on my blog for the polygamy angle, you’re welcome to stay. Just be aware that I don’t cover this topic very often — only when I run across polygamous Bible readings at church or when some religious figure or politician insists on making the false claim that the God of the Bible set up “one man / one woman” from the very beginning. Or worse, that “All societies at all times in history have defined marriage as one man, one woman.”

If you’ve enjoyed other topics that I’ve blogged about here, you might enjoy my Tumblr feed at http://alaskanlibrarian.tumblr.com. I tend to post there more frequently.

 

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