Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · A swinging situation
. . . .

A swinging situation

Robert Downes - May 23rd, 2011
A Swinging Situation
Malaysian Airlines offers a friendly reminder and a cheery welcome to the
country in big block letters in its flight magazine:
That message is repeated on the documents you sign when you cross the
border, and in case your reading skills are not so hot, the country used
to thoughtfully scatter billboards around picturing drug dealers hanging
by their necks from scaffolds.
On the other end of that swinging situation is the idea that legalizing
drugs is a better way to go to solve a problem tha’s bedeviled nations for
Considering that there have been a half-dozen or so overdose deaths in
Northern Michigan in the past few months, not to mention a claim by a
Gaylord detective that hundreds of people are now addicted to heroin in
the region, perhaps it’s time to consider how other societies have handled
the problem.
The death option goes back in response to state-sponsored drug-dealing in
China 200 years ago, which was conducted by Britain as well as the United
From the 1750s on, merchants from Britain and the United States began
purchasing opium in India and selling it to drug dealers in China to
counteract a huge trade imbalance in popular Chinese goods such as silk,
spices and tea. Although shipping drugs to smugglers was against the law
in imperial China, the trade was so lucrative that when the Chinese tried
to stop it, the British went to war on two occasions to keep the drugs
flowing. They were granted the island port of Hong Kong as the result of
the First Opium War.
It’s claimed that by the early 1900s, 27% of all men in China were using
opium -- 39,000 tons per year, according to Wikipedia.
But China’s problem was just beginning. It’s claimed there were as many as
70 million junkies addicted to morphine, heroin and opium in the country
by the 1940s.
That all changed after the communist revolution in 1949, when Chairman Mao
prescribed death sentences for drug dealers and mandatory treatment for 10
million addicts (which could mean exile for life to hard labor in a mine
or collective farm).
Nearby countries took up the hard line. Thailand’s police reportedly
execute methamphetamine addicts willy-nilly (unofficially, of course), and
in Malaysia, you can swing by the neck for possessing as little as 200
grams of marijuana.
None of this has stopped drug addiction in Asia, however. Vietnam has
rampant heroin addiction problems; China now has millions of new drug
addicts; and (according to the U.S. State Department) Thailand has one of
the highest incidences of amphetamine addiction on earth.
Compare this experience to that of Portugal.
Faced with 1% of its population addicted to heroin and a growing number of
AIDS deaths linked to injection drug abuse, Portugal decriminalized street
drugs such as heroin, LSD, cocaine, morphine and marijuana in 2001.
Today, according to an article in Scientific American, drug dealers are
still arrested and sent to jail in Portugal, but people using small
amounts of drugs -- 10 days’ worth or less -- go before a three-person
“Dissuasion Commission” consisting of at least one lawyer or judge and one
social worker or health care professional, who recommend treatment, a
small fine, or no action.
For its brave experiment, Portugal was roundly condemned by a number of
countries in the European Union, with some talk of kicking them out.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the party in Portugal: it turned
out that drug treatment went up by 63% in the country, and heroin
addiction went down by a whopping 50%.
A study by the libertarian Cato Institute found that over a five-year
period, drug deaths from overdoses dropped from 400 to 290 annually in the
country. Meanwhile, the number of new HIV cases caused by sharing dirty
needles fell from 1,400 in 2000 to 400 in 2006.
Portugal isn’t a slam-dunk in favor of decriminalizing drugs, however.
Critics have their own set of contradictory statistics, claiming that “in
those reporting drug use, personal drug use over the course of their
lifetime has gone up about 40 to 50% in the last decade,” according to a
report on NPR.
What this is alleged to mean is that drug-oriented citizens in Portugal
who’ve been given the freedom to sample drugs such as Ecstasy, pot,
heroin, cocaine, etc., have tried them out -- but overall this hasn’t
amounted to much of a problem and in fact, serious addictions are on the
Here in the United States, we’re not likely to see drug dealers with
purple faces hanging in the village square anytime soon, no matter how
many people overdose in the small towns of places like Northern Michigan.
But there has been some creeping momentum toward the idea that
decriminalization may be a better way to go. Libertarian-leaning
presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has discussed the
failure of the War on Drugs and the benefits of legalization.
Decriminalization could save America billions in law enforcement and
prison costs; end the need for robbery and theft as ways to buy drugs;
provide addicts with better treatment; dry up the revenue sources for
Mexican drug lords, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, among others who finance
terrorism with drug sales; and provide state revenues by licensing and
regulating drugs via prescriptions. What’s not to like?

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