The FDA, What Have They Been Smoking?

The Food and Drug Administration recently concluded that marijuana has no medicinal benefits. I don't think those pushing for the medical use of mary jane have ever claimed that it had curative powers. It does, however, enter into the quality of life issue. Those suffering the ravages of cancer, especially patients on chemotherapy, too often lose their appetites and waste away until they are only skeletal remnants of their previous selves. The main claim for its use is that it increases the appetite. It is difficult to see how anyone could say there is no carryover, at least to a more decent life, when by using it one can enjoy a meal instead of starving to death.

The FDA has become a political extension of the current administration and represents the skewed views of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, rather than the objective views of the scientific community. John was led more by Leviticus than the Constitution, but marijuana, so far as I know, was not a problem the ancient Jews had to deal with.

I have seen numerous members of my generation featured on news reports using hemp for the purpose listed above. The drugs of choice for our generation were tobacco and alcohol. Both were legal, and remain so today. Their combined effects have brought the scourge of cancer to many of the aforesaid generation, and will doubtless bring the same scourge to succeeding ones. It would seem to me that these legal drugs have helped build a case for medical marijuana.

I don't think it is true, but one of the touted benefits of marijuana is an increased libido. Since the group of which I am a part is dying at the rate of a thousand a day for one cause or another, I doubt if many would mind leaving this realm with satisfied smiles on their faces. Some of the more profitable drugs on the market today are designed to help solve the problem of erectile dysfunction. It seems like a double standard to allow a manufactured chemical, endorsed by Bob Dole, and yet to refuse the natural product chosen by the masses.

I gave up cigarettes almost six decades ago, and my alcoholic intake is now limited to a glass or three of wine in the evening. However, since everyone must die of something, cancer has become a common choice for the elderly. If I wind up with some form of it, and taking up smoking again would keep me from starving to death, I think I'd say, "Pass the roach."

Often Wrong, But Never In Doubt

Donald Rumsfeld cannot be separated from the policies of George W. Bush. Perhaps it should be stated in reverse. I doubt the president has the strength or the desire to suggest that Rummy leave. President Bush is a man of small imagination and his solutions to problems are limited to tax cuts and bellicose bluster. Donald is the one with ideas, and he agrees with himself on every issue. His treatment of a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was enough to discourage any Admiral or General from disagreeing with him, at least while on active duty. I guess even professional warriors can be intimidated when all they have worked for during their careers hangs in the balance. The descriptions I've read of Tommy Franks' meeting with the secretary, then his repeated trips to the planning station to answer Rumsfeld's questions, explain our going to Iraq with inadequate force — sufficient to handle a small time dictator's army, perhaps, but without plans for follow-up. Generals Franks and Myers have come to Rumsfeld's defense, but since they were part of the problem, they have vested interests to defend. In truth, I doubt that we had the troops available to do the job right in the first place. Slim and trim armies can win wars, but they are unqualified to win the peace.

Donald Rumsfeld has even more trouble admitting a mistake than his boss, and that means it is well nigh impossible to get such an admission. While the president was playing at the Lincoln theater in San Diego Bay, Rumsfeld was playing the Palace in Iraq saying, "Never have so many been so wrong about so much." In the course of this grandstanding, Iraqis were stealing anything that wasn't nailed down, and the insurgents were stealing from Saddam's ammunition dumps. The material from the dumps is being returned to us, and to Iraqi civilians, on a daily basis. Every wrong decision available to us was chosen by our leaders in this far-off land. Since the Secretary of Defense won the battle with the Secretary of State, the Pentagon became responsible for the rejuvenation of this oil-rich nation, and it took months for Rumsfeld to stop looking for those bouquets of roses he expected the Iraqis to hand us. The failures continue as we try to control an unhappy nation with inadequate manpower.

When you're the boss and make all the decisions, you're also stuck with the blame when things go wrong. That's where Donald Rumsfeld is today. But, he can't be fired without the President admitting he made a truckload of mistakes, because the two of them are joined at the hip. The war against Iraq was unnecessary, a terrible mistake, and the American public has come to realize it. Rumsfeld's departure would probably solve very little, since our options now are so limited. It might be good to be rid of his smug face, but the problems won't go away. In the end, we are probably going to do what we did both in Korea and Vietnam, declare a victory and come home. That will leave us with with Iran next door and no credibility whatsoever.

Remember the bullhorn moment at the ruins of the Twin Towers? Have you heard the expression, The best ad libs are rehearsed? Have you ever wished we'd stayed with the Afghanis long enough to have found the real culprit? So have I. I wonder if the President and the Secretary of Defense have such thoughts, in private, of course.

Proceed Without DeLay

Tom DeLay is leaving the House, but says he intends to stay involved. He will continue to push religion in government, though I don't know what religion this vicious little man espouses. It certainly encompasses some strange values. Most religions I know do not include selling pollutants to farmers, robbing the poor to further enrich the wealthy, relinquishing national treasures to corporations, starving our national places of beauty of the finances needed to maintain them, reducing safeguards for water and air, burdening the generations to come with massive debt, or the many other causes he has championed.

Tom did show just how cheaply the loyalty and support of our politicians can be bought — he was a real cash cow. His sources had trouble providing the kind of money I expect candidates for Congress need, but once his cohorts were beholden to him, he earned his nickname — The Hammer — by tactics intimidating to anyone who tried to show some independence of thought. I don't doubt that he, like many zealous reformers before him, sought changes he thought necessary, but the arrogance of power soon overtook him, and his appetite for the good life was fed by the lobbyists he dealt with. His expanding girth displayed how well his appetite for food was nurtured, but the good life included more than food. He lived the jet set life to the hilt. He succumbed to the view that he was above the law, and came to believe that if he wanted to do it, it was probably a good idea. Overreaching was not unique to him, but it was definitely a part of his comeuppance.

DeLay's replacement, John Boehner, is a cosmetic change at best. The only hope is that in assuming Tom's role he will be less effective. After all, he doesn't have Tom's connections to lobbyist bank accounts. Besides, everyone is a little antsy about the current national prominence of Abramoff, and the scandal involving money for legislation may provide some of them with a little more backbone. Nothing, after all, exceeds like excess.

The Status Quo Has Got To Go

Achilles had his heel, and it's been said that we all have one. Mine is a little farther up the leg, but part of the same appendage. After nursing a worn-out knee for several years, I've decided to have the original joint replaced with a metal one. As part of my preparation for the knife, I've had to give up my daily aspirin. In the process, I've become much more aware of the aches and pains that seem to accompany my aging machinery. If I continued to ignore the warning signs, and became a cripple, few would be affected beyond myself and my wife, who would find it even harder to enjoy life. On a national scale, it would not cause a ripple. The same cannot be said for many of the ailing limbs of our society. The warning signs have been around for some time now, but our current leadership has continued blithely on its way, as have others before it, and the piper is about to demand his payment.

I am currently reading Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy. It should be required reading for all members of government. It's very well researched, and it pinpoints several trends in our society that will bring us down if we fail to make changes. So far, I have only ingested the section on oil dependence. If that were his only topic, it would still be enough to put this book on the required reading list, but that's only the beginning. Making the changes he suggests, like giving up aspirin, will make life a little less enjoyable, but some pain just has to be endured. We can make the changes, as tough as it may be, and continue as the dominant power in the world. Or, we can ignore the signs and symptoms and follow England, and others before them, into the dependent status they now enjoy.

As the title suggests, there are other factors we must also deal with. I recommend this book for all realists, those willing to face the problems of our nation and to look for solutions to them, because, staying the course is no longer an option.

Hypocrimony or Sanctimocrisy

"Hoist on his own petard" is a phrase that comes to mind when thinking of our president's most recent secret sin. Politicians who have built political reputations on saying what they mean, as clearly as they are able, and meaning what they say, as best they understand, have raised the bar sufficiently that being caught in a lie is more deadly for them than for most other politicians. If president Bush had followed through on the threats or promises he made at the time of the leak to Robert Novak of Valerie Plame's CIA employment, we would be dealing with president Hastert right now. The defense offered is that no law was broken and, of course, it was for the good of the American public. The real reason was that we were going to war with Iraq, come hell or high water, and a fellow named Wilson was getting in the way.

Mr. Bush likes to pretend he's John Wayne pretending to be a war hero or a gunslinger, and a lot of people have bought that image. In fairness to John Wayne, he was sort of between the wars, too young for the First World War and too old for the Second, though several Hollywood leading men his age or older either joined or were drafted. And in fairness to our president, he did serve an abbreviated stint with the Texas Air National Guard, a safe haven for the well-connected, and was prepared, in his way, to defend Texas against incursions by Oklahoma. So the manly man image is not completely without merit.

His followers, however, have had their expectations raised by his sanctimony, which still sells despite Karl Rove's political war games. They have supported his obviously misleading rationale for the invasion of Iraq, and his rosy picture of the disaster we are now embroiled in. They are inclined to forgive him any failures, domestic or foreign, as long as they believe him to be a strong defender of the American way.

When it became known that he okayed domestic spying, tapping our phone lines without taking legal steps to do so, a few began to question. Recently the attorney general said that it would be just as legal to tap individual's lines even if no foreign connection was made. It seems that whatever this president wants to do is legal as far as the AG is concerned. Yet, even some of his staunchest supporters have expressed doubts about that, and about his strength when it comes to defending us against terrorists.

It is difficult to remain snowy white in the battlefield of American politics, and when you depend on people like Karl Rove and Tom DeLay to get things done, it's really hard to keep the skirts clean. Part of president Bush's political success has been that people have extremely low expectations of his personal gifts and, as a result, mediocre performances are applauded as great successes. They developed high expectations, however, for his honesty. As a result, this most recent failure has been greatly magnified. And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

As for the Democrats, they are at least two years late in apologizing for their votes on the war resolution. I find it difficult to support anyone who sticks by such an obviously wrong choice. Politically, it would probably be wiser to let the Republicans tear each other apart with internecine warfare, but I'm still looking for someone to say what s/he would do differently. Unless the Republicans do a one eighty on many of the current issues, I'll have to vote for a Democrat. I just want to avoid having to hold my nose while doing so.

The future of this nation, and the future of life on much of the earth will depend on good decisions in the coming decades. The right ones will take more courage than most of our leaders have displayed up to now. But taking the high ground has many advantages. It is much more apt to give us an unimpeded view.