To that end, I thought I would update a few subjects already posted to this blog. I wrote about the need to legalize drugs. This is a subject that evokes a lot of emotion; as people worry about easy access to drugs hooking more and more people, particularly young people. The movement to legalize drugs has been seen in the past as a fringe movement made up of burned out sixties hippies and the odd Libertarian or two. However, that began to change with the growth of the medical marijuana movement and the passage of laws in a number of states legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. When the Obama administration announced that they would no longer raid medical marijuana clubs; that was another good step. Since I called for the legalization of all drugs, and made the case for the revenues government could accrue through the taxation of legal drugs, something fascinating has happened. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has publicly stated that legalizing marijuana in the state of California might be a good idea. The Republican governor cited the fact that the state could receive between one to two billion dollars in tax revenues at a time when it is facing a financial crisis. Who'd a thunk it? The governor was serious; and when the story received news coverage, the idea was not laughed at or giggled about or dismissed as the ranting of some wacko. The irony is that the Governor did not go far enough. Not only would the state receive billions in tax revenue, but it would also see law enforcement costs drop dramatically. The millions spent on anti-marijuana campaigns in Northern California (CAMP programs) could be saved and used elsewhere. The cost of prisons and prison guards would drop since a large percentage of people in California prisons are there on possession and sale charges, with marijuana being the most prominent drug used and sold. Local police and District Attorneys would have more money to prosecute real crime and reduce local budgets or ease the pressure from cities and counties in the state for more revenue sharing. The Governor is right. There is no downside to legalizing marijuana unless you want to argue that use will increase. That is certainly probable; but if marijuana use increased but alcohol use decreased (which studies have shown is a probable outcome), would that be a bad thing?
On this space I made a plea for the California Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. Proposition 8 outlaws same sex marriages. Proposition 8 singles out gays and lesbians for discrimination without being able to show what compelling interest the state has in singling them out for the loss of this right. Since I wrote that, extraordinary events have occurred. In the heartland of America, Iowa, the state Supreme Court declared the ban on same sex marriage to be unconstitutional; and couples, gay and lesbian, will now be able to legally marry. In Maine, the state legislature passed a bill to legalize same sex marriage. The governor, a Democrat, was on record as opposing gay marriage and in favor of civil unions. He had said that marriage should be preserved for a man and a woman. However, when faced with the reality of a law legalizing same sex marriage, Governor Baldacci signed the bill into law. While that was occurring, in Washington DC an emotional drama was playing out in which the city council, despite emotion-charged attacks from local evangelical black church leaders, voted to legalize gay marriage and to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples married in other states. This measure will now go to the Congress which is responsible for approving all laws passed in the District. Stay tuned for that debate because it ought to be a doozy. What is clear is that the momentum is clearly swinging towards the approval of gay marriage throughout this nation. If the California Supreme Court does not overturn Proposition 8, there is already a movement to put another initiative on the ballot to legalize it in the state. Given the momentum current events are causing, it is not unreasonable to foresee California voters approving such an initiative.
I also wrote about the controversy surrounding the invitation by the University of Notre Dame to President Obama to speak at this years Commencement exercises. On Saturday, May 9th, New York Times columnist Peter Steinfels wrote a column on the same subject. He wrote about the "civil war which appears to be breaking out in the American Catholic Church over the issues of abortion, the role of Catholic Universities, and how the Church should respond to politicians who disagree with stands the Church takes on moral issues." Steinfels quotes one American Bishop who declares "...we are at war with those who oppose us", and who claimed that people who were pro-choice were tools of Satan. I will write one of these days about why I don't believe a case can be made for the existence of Satan; but for now lets just all agree that that is an example of some over-heated rhetoric. Steinfels refers to a number of polls in which American Catholics, by a good margin, agree with the decision to invite Obama to Notre Dame; as well as a poll of graduating seniors who also, by a majority, want to hear what the President has to say. I told you about these polls and how the American Catholic hierarchy is out of step with their own people. The one point that Steinfels missed, but that you can read here, is the blatant hypocrisy of the stance by Church leaders who wish to make abortion a moral litmus test for American Catholics and Catholic politicians while ignoring or downplaying issues like the death penalty, poverty, hunger, nuclear weapons, or promulgation of illegal and immoral wars.
I admit that a little of this is tooting my own horn; however, I also worked to update you and show that this space is going to be a place where the issues discussed will be both timely and important in your life and the life of this nation. I will never ask you to agree with me. I will ask you to read and think and comment and create a place where progressive thought can be tested by the heat of the market place of ideas and see if it can take the heat. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org