Month: December 2011

Why America Should Not Fear a Ron Paul Presidency

By: James Di Fiore

Every four years America suffers from collective amnesia. Polarization, a national disease that will never be cured, transforms election years into psychotic hybrids – one part soap opera, one part football game. The plot flips back and forth, from gossip to bloodsport, until one man is left standing. If you didn’t know any better you would think winning the Presidency was some sort of gladiator mission. The media, equipped with editorial smart bombs and an appetite for dismantling any and all candidates, savours the slips, falls and general missteps of candidates with delightful glee. Indeed, their mission is quite clear: tear them down, make them suffer for sins of the past and shine the spotlight 24 hours a day in case they slip again.

Or in Ron Paul’s case, ignore him completely.

So much has been said about Ron Paul that it seems contradictory to claim his candidacy is being ignored by the American press. But when the most often repeated sound bite centers around the rhetorical question of ‘Should he be taken seriously?’, then redundantly answered by the very folks who thought the question was rhetorical in the first place, one must wonder what anomaly is this in American politics? Paul is a 76 year old Libertarian ideologue. He is also the only honest man running for president. America, despite the satirical image of ignorant and overweight citizens who can’t find the ocean on a world map, contain within its population an army of intellectuals hungry for liberty and an non-intrusive military. They include libertarians, liberals and moderate conservatives who may not agree on everything the Texas congressman believes in, but within their ranks are several intersecting beliefs at a time when commonplace ideals from typically opposite-minded groups is not only rare but completely unheard of in the modern, polarized America. The list of items uniting the left and right towards Paul is as interesting as it gets.

Military and Foreign Policy – Paul believes in a non-invasive foreign policy. He was one of few congressmen who was against the Iraq invasion from the start, and the only candidate who does not subscribe to the fictional idea that Middle Eastern countries “hate us for our freedom.” Always charting his platform back to the economy, Paul believes America can save hundreds of billions per year by removing troops stationed in countries like South Korea, Japan and Germany. While inspired by a slightly different starting point, many liberals agree with these principles and find common ground with Paul, especially regarding his views on why 911 happened in the first place. Paul often bolsters his position on foreign policy by quoting the neo-conservative hawks who place troops overseas to begin with. In a recent debate hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, Paul cemented his point of why Al Qaeda was motivated to attack America by quoting Paul Wolfowitz who once cited America’s military bases in Saudi Arabia as the main reason the attack took place. Paul’s philosophy on the military makes him a lone voice on the right in America but it is these views that allow him to garner so much support among liberal Americans.

The Federal Reserve – Likely the most well-versed politician on the constitutionality of the Federal Reserve, Paul’s criticism of the private bank has been on record for decades. He believes the Fed is the root cause of inflation, debt and the dominance of the financial institutions on Wall Street. With the support of ultra-liberal Dennis Kucinich, Paul has introduced several bills to audit the Fed, claiming it pays banks bigger interest rates to park their money at the Fed rather than loaning money to the American people and small businesses.

The War on Drugs – While his opponents and the media spin his words to seem like he is advocating recreational drug use, Paul’s stance on narcotics is actually classic libertarianism. He believes, like many far left liberals, that the drug war has been an expensive and colossal failure. His position, that liberty means being able to decide independently what you put inside your body, is echoed by millions of Americans.

Free Market Religion – This is the area where Paul loses common ground with classic liberals and even some staunch conservatives. Paul advocates a system that relies entirely on free market principles. He is rightfully considered an extremist on this issue, going as far as advocating the dismantling of all government run disaster response organizations like FEMA, claiming the bureaucracy is so inefficient that it can actually make disasters worse. He might be right regarding the incompetence of the organization, but Paul fails miserably to provide a viable, alternative solution to natural disaster relief. He has made blanket statements about individual states and private insurance firms providing relief and rebuilding homes, but Paul has not been pressed about certainties like claim denials and the enormous cost to state governments. It is this stringent ideology of a universal, unregulated free market approach that gives Paul much of his criticism.

Health Care – While health care can easily be included within Paul’s free market ideology, it is worth noting his background as a pediatrician has not softened his views on a for-profit health care system. Paul’s position is simple – let the free market decide cost and force individuals to take care of their own bills. In his book, ‘The Revolution: A Manifesto’, Paul says that doctors once understood the responsibility they had towards the less fortunate and free medical care was the norm. He believes that those who can afford it should pay either through purchased medical insurance or by simply covering their own medical expenses. It all sounds typically conservative, but Paul has not been specific on how the poor or elderly receive care if doctors simply refuse to donate their expertise to those who need it most.

The main caveat in Paul’s presidential run is the media and how they cover his candidacy. Some speculate his lack of coverage is due to his reluctance to embrace a more corporate-centric position that reflect the typical financiers of the Republican Party. That reasoning is flawed, however, as the Democrats garner more Wall Street support than the GOP and the mere notion of corporate influence on the media is much too conspiratorial for most people to accept. Within that context is a more factual answer – Paul’s honest position on foreign policy and crony capitalism lifts the veil off of the military industrial complex just enough for many Americans to take notice. The media, often too timid to delve into this issue with great depth that could be spun as covering conspiracy theories, opt for a hands-off approach and treat Paul like a wacky uncle who has no shot at the White House anyway. His support is often characterized as eager, vocal and tenacious. Missing from those otherwise complimentary list of attributes is the willingness to give credit to the size of his following. At no time in America’s history has a candidate’s financial coffers, audience support and internet popularity been dismissed as just a small group of over-enthusiastic followers.

With Herman Cain’s disastrous campaign over, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntzman, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry are now the irrelevant foursome. Paul is now polling behind Newt Gingrich and virtually tied with Mitt Romney in Iowa. The media, doing their best to chew crow with their mouths shut, have grudgingly began to take notice of a campaign that really began in 2007. For the past four years, Americans in larger numbers than many would admit are gravitating to an honest politician.

And for those who are frightened by Paul’s strict libertarian ideology, they can seek comfort in the one guarantee American politics gives them time and time again: Congress will most certainly water down President Paul’s agenda to just a fraction of its potency. The real question is which parts would be diluted, and can he be the unlikely American figure to unite the left and right on the issues that matter most. Time, money and votes will tell. 

The Legalization of Marijuana – Why Canadians Are Finally Ready

By: James Di Fiore

There is no issue more controversial and misunderstood than the fight to legalize marijuana. Ever since the 1930s when Christian fundamentalist Dwain Esper produced the propaganda film, Reefer Madness, the North American public have been clandestinely led down a road where weed is the organic equivalent to heroin or cocaine. Historically there are several reasons for the demonization of the plant, including lobbying efforts from the textiles industry who feared the mass production of hemp, a superior raw material, would have sliced the overall demand of the competitive textiles industry in half. This first domino of misinformation created a political climate where marijuana, branded as evil and dangerous for children, fell into the inaccurate abyss of some of the more notorious and addictive narcotics.

75 years after Reefer Madness was produced, marijuana has come a long way. Once you look at the science, both socially and biologically, marijuana not only becomes an attractive substitute for more nefarious drugs like nicotine and alcohol, but as an attractive revenue source during a time when the economy needs it most. Detractors continue to falsely label marijuana as the dreaded ‘Gateway Drug’, a moniker coined by long-time Commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. Anslinger, who also claimed non-whites were more susceptible to becoming marijuana addicts, cobbled together police reports from across America, arbitrarily connecting brutal murders with marijuana use while molding a national opinion that the plant was inherently evil.

It all sounds so ridiculous today. The public are more well-versed about marijuana, partly because of access to information not supplied by the government, and partly due to their own personal experience smoking or eating the plant. In any event, the most often cited argument in modern day marijuana activism is still the strongest – if alcohol can be sold on shelves and used as a substance of celebration and generally accepted by society, why not weed?

The answer is simple. After decades of bad PR, marijuana has had an uphill battle unparalleled to any other potential commodity. But a shift has been underway since the early 90s when polls began to show Canadians were softening their stance on marijuana. The most recent polls indicate a majority of Canadians now support fully legalizing and regulating the substance, a tipping point in society that could stimulate the economy and actually help shield children and teenagers from the easy access prohibition has provided. The people are more sophisticated, and the old arguments centered around addiction have mostly been removed from the public zeitgeist. While politicians have yet to decipher an effective messaging strategy that could break the backs of the old fashioned, out-of-touch crowd, whispers of legalization have been heard on Parliament Hill.

Most recently, the federal Liberal Party, reeling from an unprecedented defeat in 2011, have included legalizing marijuana as one of their main policy resolutions for their upcoming convention in January. It might have been just an experiment, a desperate ploy for new supporters, but the resolution is among the top ranked issues on their convention web site, a potentially surprising development that will force the party to create a modern, viable message a majority of Canadians seem to support anyway. The Liberals have an opportunity chart a path that neither the Conservatives or NDP can risk. The base of the Harper government is split between traditional conservatives who are out of touch on the issue and libertarians who care less about the potential adverse effects of the drug and more about keeping the government out of personal decisions like what citizens can put in their bodies. Meanwhile, the Layton-less NDP are trying to shed the label of being too ideological and won’t risk the potential communication gaffes on the issue. This gives the Liberals, if their communications department can competently deliver a sophisticated message, the opportunity to cultivate new supporters through an issue whose time may have finally come.

It won’t be easy and is riddled with potential risks, but if there was ever a time to mobilize Canadians by giving them more liberty it is now, especially when they are being told by their current government that growing a few plants warrants a tougher mandatory sentence than showing a child your genitals. Presenting that kind of contrast can not only sway non-partisans, but should be enough to rally enough Canadians to make the next election closer than you think.