Pot Legalization Strategy Self-Defeating
I think you have to look at the strategy being used to understand why legalization [of marijuana] is not getting anywhere ["Pot Tolerance," March 8, 2012]. What do the proponents of legalization do? They lobby and march around during March and April, when candidates have to collect signatures to get on the ballot. No Democrat or Republican is afraid of facing an opponent because he voted against legalization. Organizations continue to collect money to finance a failed strategy.
The proponents of legalization are squarely in the camp of the Democratic Party. That is the party that increased the fines at the local level. That is the party that recently rounded up offenders while telling us it would lower the incidence of violent crime.
The Democrats want to keep the price up; the weed would be worth pennies and not worth fighting over if it were not illegal. Do you see anyone fighting over a tobacco field? But the proponents of legalization shun "partisan politics" and give those they say are their opponents a free ride back the legislature and the city councils every time.
Marijuana laws are a moneymaker. The price [of marijuana] is artificially high because it is illegal. Law enforcement likes that because it is an easy arrest and they get federal money. More personnel and judges are hired to staff the court house. More jail guards are hired. Fines are increased. Those convicted must pay probation fees. They must pay for drug testing. Do you think the contractor who does the testing is a political opponent?
The Libertarian Party and the Green Party have legalization as part of their platform. Both of these parties have one thing in common: they get no help from supposedly pro-marijuana organizations to get their candidates on the ballot.
"Shenanigans" Surround Introduction of Casinos
I am proud of the Advocate for its anti-casino stand. This casino issue has been an eye-opener for me. I have always been cynical about our government, but at the same time naive.
It's hard to believe the shenanigans going on. At a fundraiser for [state representative for the Second Hampden district] Brian Ashe this winter, Speaker Robert DeLeo cheerfully announced that they have gotten corruption out of government. What do politicians do with the millions and millions of dollars the casino industry has lavished on them? There are those who believe that [former House speaker] Sal DiMasi was set up and punished harshly because he was standing in the way of casinos. Anti-casino state representative Daniel Bosley was stripped of his economic development committee chairmanship when DeLeo took charge. There is speculation that Representative Brian Ashe's district was reshaped in a way unfavorable to him due to his anti-casino stand.
My state senator, Stephen Brewer, responded to my question about siting casinos in a way that would not impact the environment with, "It's up to the market." This is the same fellow who a few years ago bemoaned the loss of, as he put it, "the last green valley" should a casino be built in Palmer. Will you please explain to me what's so free-market about a plan for a small gaming commission to hand-pick three multibillion-dollar multinational casino corporations to control the gambling in one-third of the state? Basically, three well-heeled businesses will dominate the economy of their territory.
Casinos are notorious for cannibalizing competing businesses, such as local restaurants and theater venues. You or I couldn't open a casino. They claim to be so free-market. What's so free about this arrangement?
If folks in Massachusetts are disgusted with this casino nonsense, our Legislature showed us what they thought of our opinion when they wrote the bill. Folks can vote a casino down in their town or ward, but many people live closer to a casino site than people in the town where the casino is located: one fellow's yard abuts Wynn's Foxboro site, for example, yet he lives in a neighboring town. A casino affects a large region. What say do these folks have?
What is most despicable, though, is that our legislators have opted for this route for "economic development" instead of working to bring manufacturing back to Massachusetts and making Massachusetts number one in renewable energy. You can't make money on bottom feeders that make their billions sucking the discretionary money out of the economy by flimflamming folks into throwing their hard-earned money away into addictive slots. Of course, they have to pick the prettiest places to ruin to do this, despite the fact that people don't go to windowless casinos for the scenery.
I just hope that people in this state have the courage to stand up to this industry and not allow it into their communities. What's ironic is that Massachusetts, according to a news report I heard on NPR, is better off economically than any state with casinos. What does that tell you about casinos? Do we really want to be joining other states like Connecticut, Nevada and New Jersey in the race to the bottom?
Honorable Discharge for Conscientious Objector
I write to share some good news from Fort Lewis, Wash. In a landmark victory for U.S. service members, an active-duty soldier, Danny Birmingham, has received an honorable discharge after applying for conscience objector status.
Birmingham served in Iraq and became convinced that this was not a war he could reconcile with his conscience when he was called up to go to Afghanistan. He followed the law that says that anyone who objects to participation in war in any form (although you do not have to say what you would have done in World War II or, say, the War of the Roses) on moral, ethical, or religious grounds, if he holds the moral or ethical objection with the same degree of intensity as one would hold a religious belief, will be granted a conscience objector discharge. Birmingham will receive full benefits.
Birmingham's conscience developed as he was faced with another tour of duty. I hope this will open up many others in the military to think about what their conscience tells them and say no to these cruel, immoral, illegal wars.
Correction: In last week's article "Are You a Victim of Robosigning?" we misspelled the last name of land title examiner Bonnie MacCracken, who is, as she notified us, "a Mac, not (as we wrote) a Mc."