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Yesterday was a fascinating day for me. I wrote a little blog post earlier in the week in which I said President Obama should be fired for putting resources behind medical marijuana prosecutions in California. And then the Internet puked on my shoes. (See my post below for all of the fun.)

It seems some clarifications are in order.

Sorry I Confused Some of You

You can see from the many comments on this blog, and on the other Internet sites that linked to it, that people had very different interpretations of what I wrote. The people with good reading comprehension correctly understood my point: Jailing an American citizen for no reason other than political gain is a firing offense.

The people with bad reading comprehension, and the people who saw nothing but the confused summaries and tweets from those people, interpreted my argument as saying Romney is likely to be softer on drugs than Obama. And based on that misunderstanding, people concluded that my endorsement of Romney was the stupidest opinion in the galaxy. They'd be right if that had been my reasoning.

The fascinating thing here is that I believe the source of confusion is that people literally don't recognize objectivity when they see it. I got a lot of comments along the lines of "You say X is true and then in the same paragraph you say Y." What I actually said is "X is likely to be true, but here's an argument for Y." That's how objective people talk. They make a prediction and then explain why it might be wrong. That's the only way you know all sides have been considered. Partisans and non-thinkers say, "My prediction is 100% certain."

If I were to say the weather in California is good, but today it is cold and foggy, about 20% of readers would say, "Make up your mind! First you say the weather is good and then you say it is cold and foggy! You make no sense!"

Bad Analogy People


The people who aren't good with analogies waded in next, pointing out that President Obama killed U.S. citizens abroad because those citizens were part of a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of the United States. While that situation is worthy of discussion, it misses the central point of my post. There's a big difference between protecting the country and expecting some political gain from doing so versus jailing a small businessman in California for political gain while not even pretending it benefits the country. I expect my president to do some nasty stuff in my best interest. I don't expect him to do nasty stuff to citizens for no reason other than his own reelection interests. The latter is a firing offense.

The Law is the Law

The next thing that fascinated me is the number of people who said President Obama is obligated to pursue legal action against medical marijuana dispensaries in California because the law is the law and we can't have our leaders picking and choosing which ones they support.

To the people who hold that view, I wonder what country you have been living in. In the real world, legal resources are always limited, and leaders at every level of the legal system make choices every day about what is important enough to pursue and what is not.

As I write this, every police chief in every district is looking at his resources, looking at all the work his office is charged with doing, and deciding that something on the order of 50% of what the legal code asks him to do is simply impractical. So he focuses his resources on the 50% that are his highest priorities.

While the law is the law, the more important fact is that the budget is the budget. We elect our leaders to set priorities and act accordingly. The point of my post is that President Obama is using the country's limited resources to shut California dispensaries - possibly the country's lowest priority - for no reason other than political gain. In the process, he's putting a small businessman in jail for 10 years to life. That's a firing offense.

On my side of this debate is a Harvard-trained lawyer by the name of President Obama. During his first campaign for president he promised he wouldn't waste limited government resources pursuing medical marijuana cases. I'm not a Harvard-trained lawyer so I will take his word for it that a president can choose to ignore low-priority prosecutions without violating his oath.

The President Doesn't Personally Put People in Jail

Some commenters mocked me by arguing that the President doesn't control federal law enforcement at the granular level. You can't blame him for every decision made in the field. He's not personally slapping handcuffs on perps. True enough. But in the case of California dispensaries, he authorized the flip-flop in policy from ignoring the situation to going after them. Holding him innocent from the logical repercussions of his policy is like saying history should cut some slack for Pol Pot because he didn't personally kill anyone.

The Lesser Evil Argument

Supporters of President Obama argue that firing the President FOR ANY REASON means accepting a devastating alternative in a Romney presidency. While I applaud the complete dismissal of morality in the interest of practicality, let's take a minute to see if the practicality argument is so cut and dried.

My observation is that voters often - perhaps usually - don't get what they think they voted for. Nixon surprised everyone by getting cuddly with China. Bush Junior turned from isolationist to military adventurer. Obama went from weed-friendly to badass destroyer of state-approved dispensaries. Some fiscal conservatives have blown up the budget while some free-spending Democrats balanced it. If you think you can predict how a candidate will act in office, you might need a history lesson, or perhaps a booster shot of humility.

Now consider Mitt Romney, the most famous chameleon of all time. I submit that a hypothetical Romney presidency would be nearly impossible to predict with any accuracy. In each of his past leadership roles he has morphed into whatever the job required. During the primaries, his job required him to be far right. In the general election we see him drift toward the center, or as his advisor famously said, "Shake the Etch-a-Sketch." It would be naïve to assume Romney wouldn't shake it again once elected, given that even non-chameleon presidents do so.

Romney knows that the electorate is full of idiots and he needs to be a gigantic liar to win their votes. I totally get that. The funniest part is his budget plan that he promises to describe in detail after he gets elected. Dumb people see this as "He has an awesome fiscal plan!" Democrats see it as "He's a liar with no plan!" I see it as "You know I'm a brilliant and experienced turnaround guy. I know how to do this sort of thing. And if I give details now it just paints a target on my back. So chill."

In any event, Congress will be the ones who decide on the next budget. It will probably look similar no matter who gets elected. I don't believe, for example, that a Romney budget would overfund the military. Congress would moderate that, and Romney probably doesn't mean it anyway. Remember, his job today is to lie to get elected. His job once elected is quite different.

I also have no faith in my ability - or yours - to compare Obamacare (essentially a Romney plan) to how healthcare might change under a Romney administration. If you think you know the answer to that question, you're kidding yourself.

Some Democrats say the biggest risk in a Romney presidency involves Supreme Court nominees. But I think we saw after the unexpected opinion from Justice Roberts on the Obamacare ruling that the court has a built-in safety net against being too blatantly partisan and destroying its own credibility in the process.  I think the risk of a conservative-heavy Supreme Court ruining the country by adhering too slavishly (irony!) to the Constitution is low. You might not like some of their rulings, but they probably won't kill you. And if we are being objective, a court with too many lefties would have its own risks.

You're Endorsing Romney to Cut Your Rich Guy Taxes, Bastard!

Some folks suspect that I'm a weasel-bastard who is using the California dispensary issue as a smokescreen for bobbing to the right so I can save on taxes under a Romney administration. There's no defense against an accusation that I have secret motives, but let me describe the economics as I see them.

Over my career, my net worth has moved in lockstep with the overall economy. So whatever plan is good for the entire country is probably the one that helps me most, no matter what my tax rate is. And realistically, given a choice between taxing the rich, including myself, versus taxing people with no money, I don't see a choice. Even Romney knows we can't grow our way out of the problem. He's not an idiot; he's just a guy who needs idiots to vote for him.

So no, I don't see a scenario in which someday I am flying my diamond-encrusted helicopter over the rioting masses of starvation-crazed ex-middle-classers and thinking to myself that things worked out well for me. I don't see the option of living the good life at the expense of the 99%. That's not even a thing. I stopped working to satisfy my personal cravings years ago. Everything I produce and everything I earn these days is for the benefit of others. So I don't mind higher taxes on the rich if it makes sense for the country. With the exception of M.C. Hammer, the rich get richer no matter what the tax rates are. I'm afraid that won't change regardless of who gets elected.


Update:

Where's your evidence that President Obama is enforcing drug laws in California for political reasons alone?

What other reason is there? And remember that your answer has to account for the fact that President Obama has never bothered to explain his unexpected change of policy. Nor has anyone in his administration explained it.

I think it is fair to say President Obama didn't learn anything new about the dangers of medical marijuana in California that he didn't know before he got elected. If he did receive new information, he could simply point it out to defend his change of policy.

Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries after considering all factors from freedom to health and safety to economics. Our prior governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed a law decriminalizing possession of small quantities of marijuana with a classic summary: "No one cares if you smoke a joint." (It's funnier when you imagine it in Arnold's accent.)

The medical marijuana dispensaries have now operated long enough that we can see their impact.  So far, it seems that dispensaries raise tax revenues, reduce crime in their neighborhoods, and help a lot of patients find relief. Dispensaries also keep their customers away from shady dealers who might offer more harmful drugs. The dispensaries probably have no appreciable impact on supply. Illegal marijuana is easy to obtain just about anywhere.

The trend toward full legalization of medical marijuana is accelerating all over the country for the same reasons that swayed Californians. I see no reason the trend will reverse. Does it make sense to send someone to jail for a crime that will likely become a non-crime during the jail term? What kind of leader devotes resources to that?

Have you ever met someone who smoked a lot of marijuana, as President Obama did when living in Hawaii, while simultaneously holding the view that the people who sold it to him should go to jail? I don't know the exact answer to my own question, but I'm guessing the number is near zero.

Now let me confuse the readers coming over from Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Gawker, Mediaite.com, and some of the other Low Information Voter sites. I'm going to display something called "objectivity." It involves discussing the odds that I might be wrong. It does not mean I just changed my mind. It means I'm attempting to consider all sides. Here goes. . .

There is some chance - I think a very small one - that President Obama has a non-political reason for cracking down on California's medical marijuana dispensaries, although I can't even imagine what reason a liberal  ex-stoner  with a budget problem might offer. If he chooses to tell the public his reasons, I will happily reassess my opinion. But keep in mind that one of my neighbors down south is about to go to jail for ten years to life because of President Obama's decision to devote limited Federal resources to prosecuting dispensaries. When a president doesn't offer reasons for jailing Americans, you have to call that a firing offense. (Saying he is following the law isn't a reason. Federal resources are limited and citizens expect their leaders to ignore low priorities.)

In summary, if President Obama is devoting limited federal resources to go after marijuana dispensaries for no reasons other than political gain, including, for example, attracting campaign funding, he should be fired. If he has a reason for jailing a small businessman, and he chooses not to share it, that too is a firing offense.

Why do you keep ignoring third-party candidates?

The best way to fire an incumbent president who is running for reelection is to vote for the only candidate with a realistic chance of beating him. If a voter switches from Obama to Romney it causes a two vote difference: one less vote to Obama and one more for Romney. Moving one vote from President Obama to a third party candidate is a one vote difference in the competition between President Obama and Romney.

And frankly it makes a stronger statement to endorse Romney since I disagree with most of his stated policies. It underlines the difference in importance between a true firing offense and policies you believe would be less desirable than the alternatives.

If my endorsement carried any weight whatsoever, I'd consider backing a third-party candidate. But no one will change opinions based on what I blog about. So I have the freedom to write whatever has the most entertainment value for me, with the hope you'll enjoy the show too.

You're crazy when you say a good reason to believe Romney won't be a disaster as president is that he's lying about what he would do in office.

I'm betting that a chameleon will stay a chameleon. That's his history. He adapts to whatever situation he's in. The alternative is to believe a candidate for President will do all the things he promises during the campaign. How has that worked out for you?

Update 2:


Single issue voting is stupid

I agree. One must always look at the big picture. That's why I'm glad O.J. Simpson got acquitted of criminal charges for allegedly murdering his ex-wife. He only had one bad day. You also have to consider his football records.

When Bill Clinton said, "It's the economy, stupid," I took that to mean the economy is just one issue among many. I don't know how else to interpret that.

I also think Nixon got a bum deal with that Watergate thing. That was just one mistake.

If President Obama decides to give our nuclear codes to Iran, let's agree to count that as one mistake that should be weighed against all of his good work. For example, there's the time he recycled, and the time he could have lied but didn't. So that's two good things versus one bad thing.

[sarcasm off]

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!! OF COURSE ONE ISSUE VOTING MAKES SENSE IF THE ISSUE IS BIG ENOUGH!

I think we're all on the same page now. So let's focus on whether the one issue I raised in my offending blog post - that President Obama is effectively sending a guy to prison for no reason other than political gain - and see if that crosses the line for you. Do you want to live in a world where your President can incarcerate citizens for no reason beyond political gain?

Now you might say President Obama is just doing what the law requires when he puts resources behind closing marijuana dispensaries. I dismissed that argument above. (Summary: We expect our leaders to focus their limited resources on high priorities. To willfully do otherwise for political gain, and put people in jail in the process, has to be a firing offense in a free country.)

If you think the one issue I'm talking about is drug policies, and you believe both candidates will have similar policies, then of course that one issue should not sway your decision. But that isn't the one issue I'm focusing on.

My one issue involves President Obama jailing a citizen for naked political gain. You can argue whether my facts and assumptions are correct, but I don't think you can dismiss it as just one issue among many. Jailing a citizen for no reason other than political gain has to be a firing offense. I'd like to believe every citizen agrees on that point.




 
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Oct 25, 2012
What baffles me, Scott, is that even though you lost this debate handily (by my math), you refuse to concede a single point. I think that, although several people have rationally, reasonably, and successfully argued the opposite side (most notably, whtllnew), your response has been primarily dismissive.

Nobody doubts that you are an unusually intelligent person - certainly you don't. However, at this point, I think your credibility and wisdom are the bigger debate.

I know that I said in a previous post that you still haven't lost me as a loyal reader, but at this point, I'm really considering leaving permanently. At a minimum, until after the election and once your new medication has had a chance to "kick in".

When the president lost the first debate, the left nearly universally admitted it and vowed to do better. Maybe you can take your cue from them.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
@tkwelge

You still havent answered the really important part of my question; what practical good are they in this situation?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 25, 2012
Once the left loses their love of power, they come much closer to us sophisticated, evolved folks that are looking to end government and create new paradigms of human existence. WHen they're in government, they rationalize every evil. I'd rather they be out of government. Conservatives don't really fight the government, even when they're outside of it.
 
 
Oct 25, 2012
[>You're dreaming if you think Romney will be less weasel-like or that his policies wont throw anyone harmless in jail.

When did I ever say this? All that I said was that democrats would actually be skeptical towards government again, which would be a dream come true.]

Is that your whole reason for supporting Romney? Even if it isnt you say its part of your reason so I repeat: What practical good does 'the left' do if its perpetually out of power? The last time the left refused to support a democrat because he wasnt far enough to the left we got Bush Jr., a disaster.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 25, 2012
>You're dreaming if you think Romney will be less weasel-like or that his policies wont throw anyone harmless in jail.

When did I ever say this? All that I said was that democrats would actually be skeptical towards government again, which would be a dream come true.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
[But nowhere does he say that he'll crack down on them if given any chance to do so. That's what makes it especially weasel like.

> So what you're saying is that, to enforce any law, everyone who gets arrested and jailed for breaking it must be shown to be causing harm? Thats the practical effect of what you're saying here.

YES! That's the entire point, to minimize harm. And that is why our current "justice" system makes no sense. God I want Romney to be president again so bad, just so that the left will go back to being anti government. PLEASE GOD, let Romney win!]

You're dreaming if you think Romney will be less weasel-like or that his policies wont throw anyone harmless in jail. As for wanting the left to be anti-government what practical good does 'the left' do if its perpetually out of power? The last time the left refused to support a democrat because he wasnt far enough to the left we got Bush Jr., a disaster.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
>In both quotes he left some wiggle room to go after them. Yes, I know, in both quotes he also expressed support for them. Hes being a weasel. Does that disqualify him?

But then we're right back to Scott's point about prosecuting a man for political reasons. He's dead on there.

>Not my BEST argument. Just pointing out that you're wrong to say Obama promised not to move agaiunst them and flip-flopped for no reason.

Except that I'm basically right, and that's how everyone on the planet viewed his statements at the time. Only now is it convenient to use a semantic argument to say that he is not TECHNICALLY doing anything he said he wouldn't do. What an age that we're living in...

>As for the quotes you provided they, too, are weaselly; they dont say he wont go after the dispensaries, just express his support.

But nowhere does he say that he'll crack down on them if given any chance to do so. That's what makes it especially weasel like.

> So what you're saying is that, to enforce any law, everyone who gets arrested and jailed for breaking it must be shown to be causing harm? Thats the practical effect of what you're saying here.

YES! That's the entire point, to minimize harm. And that is why our current "justice" system makes no sense. God I want Romney to be president again so bad, just so that the left will go back to being anti government. PLEASE GOD, let Romney win!
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
[Really, the best argument you people have is that Obama is using weasel speech to play both sides of an issue without really being clear. He even continues to court the stoner vote!]

Not my BEST argument. Just pointing out that you're wrong to say Obama promised not to move agaiunst them and flip-flopped for no reason.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
[The Federal government shouldn't be overriding state laws that it says its okay with due to a county's complaint. That just doesn't make sense. ]

Makes sense to me.

[No, he never stated in those quotes that he would do anything to the dispensaries. In one quote, he specifically stated that he wanted the JD to focus resources on things that cause actual harm. Nowhere in there did he say that he would crack down on dispensaries the second somebody complained about something. ]

In both quotes he left some wiggle room to go after them. Yes, I know, in both quotes he also expressed support for them. Hes being a weasel. Does that disqualify him? If it does then Romney fails too. And so does every president weve had since Carter.

As for the quotes you provided they, too, are weaselly; they dont say he wont go after the dispensaries, just express his support.

[For any of your rationalizations to make any sense, you have to explain how this dispensary owner was causing harm and how it was an immediately necessary utilization of scarce resources.]

Really. So what you're saying is that, to enforce any law, everyone who gets arrested and jailed for breaking it must be shown to be causing harm? Thats the practical effect of what you're saying here.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
Really, the best argument you people have is that Obama is using weasel speech to play both sides of an issue without really being clear. He even continues to court the stoner vote!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
>Sorry to 'puke on your shoes', Scott, but what is your reason for stating that your President acted purely for his own political gain?

Probably a combination of Occam's razor and the lack of any other legitimate explanation whatsoever. I like how naivete is a virtue as long as you're supporting Obama. It's really funny when you think back on the Bush years. I'm no Bush supporter, but you used to be considered the devil if you didn't immediately puke when you talked about him. And now the SAME people who held that opinion are circling the wagons for Obama. This is some 1984 doublethink going on...
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
Here is more from candidate Obama's representative in 08:

"Voters and legislators in the states—from California to Nevada to Maine—have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering,"

"Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice— though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] regulation like other drugs,"

The state is the level of government higher than the local county government. They are the highest authority in the state. The Federal government shouldn't be overriding state laws that it says its okay with due to a county's complaint. That just doesn't make sense. Stop trying to square this circle.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
>I have posted two quotes from Obama saying he may go after them.

No, he never stated in those quotes that he would do anything to the dispensaries. In one quote, he specifically stated that he wanted the JD to focus resources on things that cause actual harm. Nowhere in there did he say that he would crack down on dispensaries the second somebody complained about something.

And the head of the JD in the early Obama administration specifically sent out a memo stating that dispensaries in compliance with state law would not be bothered.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
For any of your rationalizations to make any sense, you have to explain how this dispensary owner was causing harm and how it was an immediately necessary utilization of scarce resources.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
>"I can't ask the Justice Department to say, 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books.' What I can say is, 'Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.' As a consequence, there haven't been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes."

And in the early days of the Obama administration, the JUSTICE DEPARTMENT specifically stated that they would not go after dispensaries that are not violating STATE law:

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/06/644121/new-house-bill-tries-to-save-medical-marijuana-dispensaries-from-justice-department-lawsuits/?mobile=nc

And again, I'm not seeing what the local government's complaints could even be.

It's pretty obvious from your Obama quote above, that he was saying that he wanted the justice department to focus on things that cause actual harm, like heroine and meth. You're just using semantics to weasel Obama's way out of this one.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
@tkwelge

[Did the state government hAve the authority to grant this right, well according to candidate Barack Obama, they did.]

I have posted two quotes from Obama saying he may go after them. I asked you for quotes from him saying specificallhy that he wouldnt. And please be complete. Dont give me just the part of the quote where he says he wont; my quotes contain those parts.

And 'right to grant' is not the same as 'right to guarantee'


 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
Did the state government hAve the authority to grant this right, well according to candidate Barack Obama, they did.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
@tkwelge

[How was the law poorly enacted? The county can't come up with zoning regs on its own? If the county has a problem with the state government, why did they go to the federal government in order to override a right that the state government guaranteed? That is not a justified action, especially after Obama said that he would support the state's decision. What an empty promise, "we'll support your decision, until anybody suggests its a bad idea, then your decision is irrelevant." You obama trolls are getting ridiculous.]

...Ummm....did the state government have the authority to guarantee this right?

Anyway we're straying from the main question here which is this: is this something we should single issue our vote on? Something we should call a 'firing offense'? I say no. It seems likely to me that the feds took a look at Obamas stated position on the matter (see my last post) and concluded they didn't need to ask permission to crack down. And even if they did I have a problem with telling the feds/president that enforcing the law is a firing offense.
 
 
Oct 24, 2012
@tkwelge

[But that's just it. Obama said that he wouldn't bother dispensaries if they were complying with state law. This is just a nonsensical justification.]

"I can't ask the Justice Department to say, 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books.' What I can say is, 'Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage.' As a consequence, there haven't been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes."

Even if you're right and Obama said at some other point that he wouldn't move against state licensed dispensaries (please give me the whole quote) he also said this. And as Dilgal pointed out the situation reached the 'doing folks damage' point.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 24, 2012
> and still be justified in responding to a plea for help from county officials to deal with problems created by a poorly enacted law/policy.

How was the law poorly enacted? The county can't come up with zoning regs on its own? If the county has a problem with the state government, why did they go to the federal government in order to override a right that the state government guaranteed? That is not a justified action, especially after Obama said that he would support the state's decision. What an empty promise, "we'll support your decision, until anybody suggests its a bad idea, then your decision is irrelevant." You obama trolls are getting ridiculous.
 
 
 
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