Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thoughts on SB17: Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Delaware

Thoughts on SB17: Delaware’s Medical Marijuana Bill

Whenever Mark, aged three, touched an object he shouldn’t, his mother would make him go into the kitchen. As soon as he saw she would drag him there, he would begin a chilling banshee scream, yelling, “Mommy, I won’t do it again. I promise. I won’t do it again.”

But his sobs were useless. His mom would turn on the stove’s gas flame burner and hold his hand over it until his palm blistered. As he screamed in agony, she would yell, “Will you touch that again? Will you? WILL you!!”

“No, no, NO.”

Finally she would let go.

Mark spent his toddler years afraid of everything. He’d wander aimlessly around the house with tears running down his face, sobbing his heart out with no one to comfort him.

A wasted childhood turned into wasted school years and wasted young adult years. Mark drank himself to death by age thirty-eight. In a bitter irony, not just his hands, but his entire body was burned to ashes via cremation and scattered to the four winds.

Was it alcohol that killed Mark? “Yes” and “No.”

“Yes,” in that technically he died of alcohol poisoning; but, “no,” in that Mark was killed long before he turned thirty-eight.

That’s the way it is with substance abuse. Abuse of alcohol and drugs is a sure indicator of a spiritual problem, a soul signal that a life has gone badly awry; that someone is in need of help.

Mark’s problem was not alcohol itself, for what can be used for good can be used for ill. A champagne toast at a wedding is a happy event, an acknowledgement that joy prevails, at least for a fragile and fleeting moment. That toast is a very different thing than starting out the day with a Bloody Mary and topping it off with a bottle of Scotch, as my friend Dick Scholl, convicted of grand larceny and dying of AIDs did until the day he died. But that’s another story with other lessons.

The point is: that is how it is with the human condition and the tragedy and hope of human choice. It’s not the alcohol, not the marijuana, not the opiate that is evil. Out of the heart come all manner of bad things. It’s the choices that are made and why the choices are made that are at the heart of alcohol and drug abuse.

Anything that can be used for good can be used for ill, as the site found here states:

“…there are more than 1000 household products that teens can use to get high: typewriter correction fluid, felt tip markers, spray paint, air freshener, butane, cooking spray, various types of glue, gasoline, deodorant spray, fabric protector spray, whipping cream aerosols, hair spray, and household cleaners. Not only are these items available in the home, teens can walk into any grocery store, hardware store, or pharmacy and purchase them with no questions asked.”

And, frankly, no questions should be asked of people who buy household products designed to do good but which are sometimes used for evil, self destructive and deadly purposes.

That brings us back to the point of this small essay. If marijuana, which can be used for evil, can also be used for good, then let it legally be used for the limited but obvious good it can provide for those in pain.
Sadly, like Mark, there will always be those who smoke to avoid life or who shoot up their veins to escape the heartlessness of this world, who get into the drug culture out of a foolish notion of sophistication and the literally high life, or who, out of sheer greed, determine to take advantage of fellow human beings, even children, for profit.

At the heart of the abuse is a person, a priceless life to be salvaged, a soul to be redeemed. The substance is almost incidental.

Here is where the attention and resources presently given to the War on Drugs should go: to people; to the Marks of this world--the self-punishers, the spiritually crippled, the emotionally dead—not to a useless war on substances.
And in the meantime, to that person who would rather have a gun put to their head and their brains shot out rather than live with continual and unremitting pain--have a joint.

“Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
weep over the erring one, lift up the fallen,
tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.”

For God’s sake, have mercy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Asia, Quaking

The shoreline of Japan is not the only shift that will have been caused by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

As significant as the material damage, which appears to be almost incalculable, and as worthy of attention as the economic damage, also titanic, is a potential shift in the international alliances and strategies in the Far East, particularly among China, Japan and the US and its allies.

For the grim truth is that Japan, already beleaguered by a stagnant economy, a pitiless demographic and a fate filled geographic location now has been hit with devastation the equivalent of total war, including the threat of nuclear disaster. One look at the satellite photographs reveals devastation that makes Sherman’s march on Georgia and the Nazi blitz of London seem restrained.

Japan has been critically wounded, and it will not be long before her ancient enemies China and North Korea, along with their opportunistic allies, move in to take advantage of her present weakness, as enemies always do.

Japan’s situation is not at all like a nation such as France, which is ensconced amid European allies with empathetic governments and favorable economic alliances like the European Union. Never has there been any particular inclination by China and North Korea to hammer out mutually agreeable agreements such as are characteristic of the Western democracies, regardless of their unique national distinctions and rivalries; for China and North Korea are not democracies but authoritarian governments who see economic strategies in terms of war, not mutually satisfying cooperation.

Japan is flanked on the East by the vast and geographically quixotic Pacific, which can arbitrarily wreak devastation at a moment’s notice. To the West, she is bordered by nations with long memories and persistent antipathies. Just as bad, even friendly allies such as the United States and Australia, unless they act swiftly, will be forced to revise their long term Far East and Southeast Asian strategies in light of Japan’s new weakness coupled with the increasing strength of China’s military and China’s already strong economic presence within Japan itself. This is to say nothing of North Korea’s steadfast and intractable hatred of her ancient nemesis.

It is sometimes hard for Americans, who are always among the most magnanimous, forgiving and generous of nations, to grasp how ingrained and intractable hostilities among the Far East nations are. It is equally difficult to comprehend how those hostilities continue to play out among the ancient rivals. That is because we in America do not have the long, long history of internecine conflict that has characterized the chief antagonists of Far East. Japan, China and Korea have been entangled in wars and occupations from time immemorial; wars which are not forgotten and in many cases not forgiven because of the immense brutality doled out by Japanese occupying forces.

Japan may generally have escaped the both the odium and the klieg lights which have kept the Nazi atrocities under continual scrutiny, but her behavior as conqueror and occupier of China and Korea was as horrific as the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe and the Barbarossa campaign against Russia. Japanese cruelties such as the “Rape of Nanking,” the brutal occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 , and the Japanese atrocious medical and biological warfare experiments in the infamous Unit 731 and elsewhere are still living memories for the Chinese and Koreans. Despite the attempts of Japan to apologize for past transgressions and despite the fact that both China and Korea have been guilty of atrocities, neither country would be sorry to see vengeance heaped on their former tormentors; nor would either of those nations hesitate to take advantage of Japan’s present and probably lingering weaknesses. There are old scores to be settled with Japan.

The reaction of China and its quixotic and undependable ally North Korea will probably not yet take the form of overt military action because of the presence of the United States military and America’s strong alliance with Japan. However, both will move, though not necessarily in tandem, to strengthen their already growing hegemony in the Far East and beyond, seeing the catastrophe as an opportunity to take portions from Japan’s economic pie by moving in to replace Japanese influence, already diminished by its two decades long economic malaise. The accompanying result could be a diminution of US influence in the Southeast Asian region.

While the leaders of North Korea may well continue to hold their cards close to their chests, what might China do next in view of ancient antipathies she now sees as having the possibility of being rectified? What goals will she seek to achieve in view of Japan’s and America’s weakened positions in the Asian theatre?

The most likely possibility is that China will attempt to achieve some long term goals more rapidly than previously thought possible.

One accelerated goal will almost certainly be to achieve the quiet and “peaceable” reintegration of Taiwan into the Chinese mainland, absorbing it in much the same way Hong Kong was quietly absorbed in 1997. We may look for one of the many conditions to include the return of the imperial treasures presently in the Taiwan National Museum. For one of the memories still very much alive in the minds of China’s present day rulers is the fact that when Chiang Kai Shek and his wife retreated to Taiwan, they took with them much of their nation’s exquisite and irreplaceable art; art which represented the very soul of China and the essence of its rich artistic heritage. Mainland China now, as then, wants the art back.

The watching world may also expect increasingly strengthened ties between Australia and China with diminishing ties to US and its ally, Japan. That is because regardless of Australia and New Zealand’s cultural ties with the Anglo-sphere, they also are isolated and vulnerable islands whose proximity to China necessitates realignments not necessarily in favor of its present allies. China’s increasing hegemony over the seas surrounding Australia, waters once firmly dominated by Western powers, may be cause for a new pragmatism on the part of both Australia and New Zealand.

In fact, Japan’s accelerated weaknesses may tempt China to increase its already considerable presence in countries such as Burma, where it seeks easy access to the Indian Ocean; and in Vietnam, which despite a thousand year long Chinese cultural hegemony, has sought to retain its influence in the South China Sea, despite the hot breath of the Red Dragon down its long neck. Just recently, Vietnam protested February’s Chinese military maneuvers near the disputed Spratly Islands, whose surrounding waters are rich in minerals the Chinese economy demands. The maneuvers will doubtless continue and multiply now that Japan is down and out.

There will also be increased pressure on China’s growing rival India. Like Burma, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and other southeastern nations, India will feel the consequences of the earthquake and tsunami, as minus Japanese strength and the preoccupation of the US with the Middle East, China will seek to strengthen her control over the South Sea, thus diminishing through military threat India’s ancient trade routes, routes which are critical to her continuing economic success. India’s and the West’s hegemony over the South Seas is threatened as China will seek to derail both India’s and the US alliances and dominance of the South Sea.

How must the US and her allies react to the Japan’s weakness and China’s attempts to take advantage of that weakness?

First, the US must, together with its allies in Europe, despite our and their economic troubles, launch a Marshall Plan to help Japan regroup and get back on her feet. Next, Japan must increase her own military strength in order to balance increasing Chinese belligerence in that region. Further, the US and her allies must immediately form and strengthen a coalition of Eastern nations who will, even if it is only for immediate pragmatic concerns about their survival, be a firewall against increasing Chinese influence and domination of the region.

Next, America must increase its ties with India, whose empathetic government and growth as an economic power are capable of being a counter balance to China’s antidemocratic authoritarianism, drive for dominance of the Southeast, and increasing belligerence on the world stage.

Also among the necessary domestic strategies for counterbalancing Japan’s current weakness: beefing up rather than cutting the US military, rapidly decreasing debt obligations to China by dealing with runaway government spending, reassessing the US stance concerning trade imbalances, and rectifying the US/Chinese currency difficulties.

If the US and her allies act now, Japan’s current weakness will be shored up and the effects of the devastation brought on by the earthquake and tsunami will be mitigated if not entirely rectified, while Japan’s ancient enemy China and her odious ally North Korea are at least contained and prevented from accelerating China’s goals in Southeast Asia and beyond.

In conclusion, the US must see its role as more than helping out a stricken ally. It’s imperative to develop and implement strategies which will contain the inevitable increase in belligerence from China and North Korea.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Delaware Protects Abusers

My neighbor Christopher (not his real name) is five years old. All five years have been really difficult. For Christopher, who when born seemed perfectly fine, has had grand mal seizures from infancy. The seizures left him physically and mentally impaired, so much so he now is in a special needs kindergarten class.

His adoring parents will be moving from Wilmington because they do not trust the educational system to take care of Christopher properly. They are worried about possible neglect and abuse.

They have good reason for their concerns, as Pat Maichle, the executive Director of the State of Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council, acknowledges. She has stated children with disabilities are disproportionately victims of abuse, including sexual abuse.

She, along with Tania Culley, the Child Advocate for the State of Delaware, supports State Representative Greg Lavelle’s determined and multiple efforts to allow victims of abuse in public institutions the same redress as those who are abused within private institutions such as private and parochial schools.

Representative Lavelle has on four separate occasions introduced legislation that would give the 125,000 children in Delaware’s public school system the same redress as is presently afforded to children who attend private institutions. Four times he has been shot down, and Delaware’s children continue to be unprotected from sexual predators.

Evidently not one to give up, Representative Lavelle has introduced yet another bill aimed at leveling the playing field, HB 12, which also seeks to waive the state’s sovereign immunity in child sex abuse cases.

Lavelle stated, concerning a previous attempt, “This bill is about doing what is fair and just for all victims of childhood sexual abuse in Delaware. Under Senate Bill 29, victims who were abused in the private and nonprofit sectors…have had access to recover damages. Yet children abused while attending a public school in the state…are not granted the same legal access. To say that those victims are at an unfair disadvantage would be an understatement.


The question arises: Just why is it that abuse in public schools goes unaddressed? Why are public school teachers immune to the sort of prosecution we have routinely seen doled out to pedophiles within private and parochial schools? After all, millions have been given out to victims of abuse within private schools, witness the case of John M. Vai, who was awarded $30 million in compensatory damages for abuse which happened at St. Elizabeth’s parochial school.

Perhaps the answer is that the teachers union protects their own.

As James Hudnell pointed out in this eye opening article “Teachers Unions: The Child Molester’s Best Friend” (February 9, 2010), teachers’ unions in states like California and New York have coddled criminals within the school system for years.
Hudnell cites an example of such protection.

From a New York Post piece:

“At the beginning of his 32-year career as a math teacher in Queens, Francisco Olivares allegedly impregnated and married a 16-year-old girl he had met when she was a 13-year-old student at his Corona junior high, IS 61, the Post learned.
He sexually molested two 12-year-old pupils a decade later and another student four years after that, the city Department of Education charged. But none of it kept Olivares, 60, from collecting his $94,154 salary.

He hasn’t set foot in a classroom in seven years since beating criminal and disciplinary charges. Chancellor Joel Klein keeps Olivares in a “rubber room,” a district office where teachers accused of misconduct sit all day with nothing to do.

That would be $94K a year for sitting around drinking coffee and reading the paper.”

California is even worse, as accused teachers are paid to stay home.

“About 160 teachers and other staff sit idly in buildings scattered around the sprawling [Los Angeles Unified School District]…the housed are accused…of sexual contact with students…Nearly all are being paid. All told, they collect about $10 million in salaries per year—even as the district is contemplating widespread layoffs of teachers because of a financial shortfall.”

While New York’s infamous “rubber rooms,” where accused teachers sat around all day while collecting full salaries, are now supposedly gone, the fact is that protecting teachers who abuse their students is “a common practice in many states where teachers’ unions hold sway. Then they can’t fire them, in some cases schools have had to offer instructors cash payments to quit.”

Hudnall concludes, “Unions and public sector jobs are the most unholy alliance of our times…and many victims have been left in their destructive wake.”
It surely looks as if Delaware is following in the footsteps of California and New York: Protectionism of the worst sort plus a perversion of law in that some get redress for abuse while others have no recourse at all.

Lavelle’s legislation would rectify the glaring inequities, but continues to languish while strongly opposed by those who are indebted to and protecting the teachers union.

So much for equal justice for all of Delaware’s children.

Who can blame Christopher’s parents for wanting to get out of Delaware?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Courting Disaster

My article on Obama and the courts.