Thursday, March 25, 2010
HEALTH, WAR AND POT
1. Final Passage of the Health Plan: The health reform reconciliation package (this is that second piece of legislation carrying all the House adjustments--the landmark health bill was passed this past Sunday and was signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday) was approved by the Senate today (Senator Harry Reid to the left, delivered) but not without at least one more Republican delay tactic. Remember two things I mentioned on Sunday? One that this measure could go bouncing back and forth, plus that there was an add-on college financing reform program? Well, the Republicans pointed out a tiny technicality of one insignificant element of this amendment, and, they were ruled to be correct. So this language had to be adjusted, and this change meant a return of the legislation to the House. So the House promptly voted on finally passing the second part of the package. Whew, victory and change, at last, for the only real newsworthy obstruction now will be the legal problems being initiated by largely Republican state attorney generals. There is one Democrat, from Louisiana, but having lived there for almost four years, take it from me that this a weird political state. Of course, the Supreme Court remains Republican dominated, so who really knows what will happen in the long term. This will certainly linger for years.
2. The Latest Middle East War is Now More Than 8 Years Old: The Afghanistan War began on 7October2001, and 90,000 allied forces (50,000 American) still remain there. Allied
deaths are at 1700, with about a thousand American. Army General Stanley McChrystal is in charge here. We attacked Iraq on 20March2003, and approximate coalition deaths number around 6,000, mostly Americans, although U.S. seriously wounded approach 32,000. However, one report indicates that this war resulted in almost 1.4 million civilian casualties. There were about 88,000 American troops still in Iraq last month. There could still be 50,000 by the end of summer, with a timetable of full pullout at the end of 2011. The commanding General is
Raymond Odierno (replacing David Petreaus). While World War II began several years before American involvement, we entered late in 1941 with the end in 1945, so our participation was less than four years. Up to 61 million might have died from this tragedy. American deaths were close to 420,000 (0.32% of the population). This percentage for the total Middle East War since 2001 is at 0.0017%. For less than half the time period, the death intensity of WWII was 200 times that of the Middle East War. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has predicted the cost of this recent war to be up to $3 trillion, which has not be refuted by the White House. While a rough U.S. cost of WWII was in the range of $288 billion, the worth today (go to box on right--Calculate the Current Value of Money) would be closer to $4 trillion. Thus, this dinky war on terror is costing the Nation a lot of money. Just think what could be done if that $3 trillion were applied to green energy, global warming, education, etc.
3. Pot, better known as Marijuana: The State of California will in November vote on legalizing marijuana. My blog of 25February2010 reported on Amsterdam, with their coffee shops (a euphemism for store where you can purchase and smoke this weed) and smart shop (same for magic mushrooms and the like...to, of course, make you smarter). Even with their red light district, Amsterdam seemed safe and sane. At no time did I notice anyone walking on the streets in any way looking crazy or uncontrolled. In fact, I felt safer walking the streets at night than any American city, including Honolulu. While some might argue that this would be one step towards hard drugs, the evidence does not show this connection, and, I think, marijuana tends to control any euphoria better than alcohol. To quote:
Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older. Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Maintains current prohibitions against driving while impaired. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments: Savings of up to several tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments on the costs of incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders. Unknown but potentially major tax, fee, and benefit assessment revenues to state and local government related to the production and sale of marijuana products.
What will happen if this passes is that certain local governments will enact laws legalizing marijuana, and hundreds of localities will become mini-Amsterdams. Well, still to come could be smart shops and red-light districts...maybe.
The Dow Jones Industrials zoomed up to +119 at one point today, and crashed down to +5, ending at 10,841, with world markets mixed. Gold went up $5/toz at $1092 and crude oil rests at $80/barrel.