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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: November 2004

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Top Ten Things I am Thankful for as an American

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I have come up with a top ten list of the things I am most thankful for in regard to recent events that have occurred in the world and the current state of America. As a blogger writing my opinions of things that usually are bothering me, this seems like a great opportunity to write about the things that I am pleased with. Because most top ten lists count down, I will follow that format because that is how top ten lists are supposed to be written. Right? Anyway, this is my list:

10. The right to disagree. I am thankful for the fact that we can speak freely and disagree on things such as top ten lists among others. I hope to have some reader’s top ten lists in response to this one.

9. No more Theresa Heinz Kerry in the news. That woman just got on my nerves with one idiotic statement after the other. I am so thankful that she is not going to be the first lady; she makes Hillary Clinton look like a pussycat, which is one heck of an accomplishment!

8. The 2004 campaign is over. I consider myself something of a political junkie but even I become sick of the campaigning and spinning. The campaigns seem to last longer and longer. In less than two years, it will start all over again. For now, I am just thankful that there is no more campaign ads on television, print, or radio complete with misleading information, insulting our intelligence.

7. Ding-dong, terrorist Arafat is dead. Arafat was a terrorist, now he is a dead terrorist. The Israelis and the Palestinians now have a new opportunity to reach a peace settlement. A peace in this region would greatly reshape the rest of the Middle East and the world. This may be a long way away, but it is not impossible. After all, Jordan and Israel made peace which lasts to this day.

6. The information age. No longer does the American public have to depend on 3 bias news sources: ABC, NBC and especially CBS. In the internet age, information is now accessible to everyone. Dan Rather’s forged memos did not escape the scrutiny of the bloggosphere, the Drudge Report, and talk radio. The press must recognize that it must be fair and present all sides of the issues; otherwise, people will look to alternative news sources. The traditional news media should give the public the facts and trust the public to reach its own conclusions. Having a variety of information sources allows people to use more critical thinking skills (which are very necessary when evaluating the accuracy of information on the internet or elsewhere).

5. 50 Million + people have a chance to live in freedom. As a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, people who have lived their entire lives under tyranny have an opportunity to have those freedoms many of us Americans shamefully take for granted. These two countries each have a free press, church/state separation, economic freedom, fledgling elected governments, and unprecedented other freedoms for women. Women can now walk the streets without a male chaperone, can vote, and can even hold elected office. No one can say for certain if self government will work in either of these countries; ultimately it depends on how badly the people of these countries want it. Representative government takes time and patience; we are still far from perfecting it in America. Once the opportunity for freedom presents itself, it is very difficult for tyrants to resist the tide. If freedom does take root in Iraq and Afghanistan, surrounding countries such as Iran may also give way to freedom. The spreading of freedom is the best hope we have in achieving world peace. How this all plays out will be very instructive to how the war on terror will be fought in the future. I for one am thankful that this process is finally underway and am very optimistic.

4. Saddam is in prison; his sons are still dead. More than a year ago Saddam’s vile sons were killed in battle; they will never again pose a threat to our safety or the safety of the Iraqi people. Later this December, we will also be celebrating the capture of the Butcher of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein. He was found living the life of a mole in a dirty, smelly, spider hole. Saddam must now answer to the Iraqi people and the world for his litany of crimes against humanity.

3. The results of the 2004 presidential election. Certainly not everyone shares my view on this however, I believe President Bush was the right choice for America in these troubled times. No question, President Bush has his flaws, particularly with much of his domestic agenda, but he does understand that we live in a dangerous world and that decisive action has to be taken when dealing with international terrorism. Sometimes these decisions are unpopular yet he sticks to his guns because he believes in the cause. I am also thankful that the results of the election were clear. There are some concerns over some of the vote tallies in Ohio, but when all the votes are accounted for, the end result will be the same. No election runs 100% error free (there is definitely room for improvement), but it is a human system therefore it is not perfect. Those of you who voted against the president should also be thankful; because Kerry lost, you will have an opportunity to vote for the person you really wanted to vote for this time in 2008: Hillary Clinton. Yikes, I shutter at the thought.

2. Military Families. Just as the soldiers themselves are sacrificing for this country, so are their families. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, and the children of our troops have to go on with their lives as the war on terror rages on. This means not seeing their loved ones on holidays and many of life’s other big events. They watch their loved ones leave from the local armory to not be seen for maybe a year or so later. Unfortunately, some return deformed, missing limbs or suffer other forms of trauma. Even worse, some never return at all. I am thankful for these families who put themselves on this emotional roller coaster. I do not know how they are able to do it, but without their support, the cause for freedom would be all but impossible.

1. Our troops. All of us owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. These young men and women of the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Air force and Coast Guard, some as young as eighteen, have volunteered to put their very lives on the line to serve this country. When I think of the tremendous sacrifices these young people make every day in every generation, it gives me faith in the strength and resolve of this country. The American soldier has defeated the scourges of Nazism, Communism, Fascism, and is working right now to defeat militant Islam and all other threats to freedom and self government everywhere. Nearly every place there is freedom; an American soldier’s boot has treaded, usually at the expense of his life (I wish more Europeans would not take this fact for granted. But for the sacrifices of the United States, they would very likely be living under tyranny themselves). Regardless of whether we agree with a particular war or military action or not, we should always support our troops and thank them for their service. Every one of them are heroes and they should be treated accordingly.

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Monday, November 22, 2004

Newsflash: War is messy

All is fair in love and war? Apparently not. I am going to say what nobody else seems to have the courage to say: the Geneva Conventions are a joke! Apparently the Geneva Conventions only apply to the coalition in Iraq. No country the U.S. will ever go to war against will ever follow the rules of warfare; therefore our troops should not be bound by them either.

Much has been made about this Marine who shot a wounded ‘insurgent’ in the head while playing dead. Hardball’s Chris Mathews had the nerve to ask whether this shooting was justified and even suggested the Marine was some kind of war criminal. He even expressed empathy for the enemy soldier saying something to the effect that ‘just because he fights for the other side does not make him a bad person’. Give me a break! Whose side are you on Chris? Its one thing to have an agenda against President Bush, but its quite another to have an agenda against the American soldier. These enemy forces do not deserve our pity, our respect, or our overly humane treatment; they deserve to die!

I know that may sound harsh to some of you; maybe it is. Maybe I’m missing something here. Our troops are at war with people who do not treat them humanely, who behead innocent civilians, booby trap dead bodies, strap explosives to children, who do not follow ANY of the Geneva Conventions…nope I don’t think I’m missing anything at all! Where is the outrage for these actions? No, we must be upset because an American soldier shot an enemy thug in the head who would have undoubtedly returned to kill our troops on another day had he succeeded in fooling the soldiers who were present. Had Mr. Terrorist surrendered as he should have, chances are he would be in an Iraqi prison (being treated much better than he deserves), rather than becoming worm food. When bombs are dropped on enemy strongholds, does anyone check to make sure that the enemy isn’t sleeping or playing dead? What if they are not presently armed? Would anyone care if Bin Laden was found laying on the ground unconscious and someone shot him in the head just in case?

When I heard the audio of the incident, I could feel the tension taking place. I could imagine being in that position. What would I do? Exactly the same thing! This soldier deserves a medal not a court-martial! If this brave Marine is punished, we have made all of our troops jobs that much more difficult. Their hands are tied too much as it is. Instead we should say to hell with world opinion! Its time to get away from this sensitive war on terror and kick some ass! No more of this hiding in mosques. When the Texans resisted the Mexican army in the Alamo, the Alamo was no longer a Mission but a fortress. Both sides understood that. The same rationale should apply in Iraq. Surely new and better places of worship can be built once the war is over.

In the fog of war, life and death decisions have to be made. Sometimes, innocent people are killed. That’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of war. The media is trying to hold our troops to an impossibly high standard where no one is hurt but the enemy. If only life were that simple.

If you would like to show this Marine you support his actions, sign the online petition at .The petition will be sent to congress once the goal has been reached. Also, take some time out to thank our troops fighting the war on terror in Iraq and Afgahnastan. My favorite sodier blog I have found so far is called Boots on the Ground (click on the title of this post to go there now).
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Sunday, November 14, 2004

Appointing Qualified Judges

Now that the 2004 election is over, we can return to debating substantive issues again. No more of this discussion about who served where and how during the Vietnam War. No more controversy over who really won the election; fortunately President Bush won handily with both the electoral and popular vote. We no longer need to worry about a Kerry administration outsourcing our national security to the United Nations to meet some sort of ‘global test’. What we do need to worry about is the make up of the courts; one area that concerns me no matter who is president.

Conservatives often complain that liberals try to get their way through the courts. The argument is that liberals are not winning elected office so the only way they have any power is through a ‘liberal’ court. Conservatives also have this false notion that the court should follow the will of the people. They could not be more wrong on this. Judges are supposed to rule in accordance with the Constitution, not with what is popular at the moment. The Bill of Rights specifically prohibits certain rights from being voted away: freedom of speech, right to bear arms, protection against unlawful search and seizure, etc. The founders of this country were very wise to have federal judges appointed to lifetime terms rather than be elected. The founders were concerned that judges would try to appeal to the majority rather than interpret the laws already on the books.

Because judges tend to be around a long, long time, it is important to have judges who will fulfill their role in the proper fashion; this is where the principle of checks and balances comes in. Some conservatives argue that President Bush earned a mandate to appoint the judges of his choice and that the senate should approve of his appointments because of this mandate. Again, wrong, wrong, wrong! Not everyone who voted for Bush necessarily agreed with every one of his positions; the same could be said about Kerry’s supporters. It is the senate’s duty to review the qualifications of each appointment to the cabinet and the judiciary. Each senator is duty-bound to his or her constituents and personal beliefs as to whether the appointee is qualified for the post. It would be irresponsible for a senator to allow the president to always have his way because of some perceived mandate.

Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania has come under heavy fire from some of his fellow Republicans because of concerns over whether he will allow certain judicial appointees out of committee. He is seen by some as not being a team player. Senators are not supposed to be team players but many of them unfortunately are. Conservatives have not forgotten how Senator Spector railed against Reagan’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Judge Robert Bork. Fortunately, Judge Bork failed to be appointed to the Supreme Court because of controversial opinions he had written earlier in his career. The most disturbing of Bork’s opinions was his views on the first amendment; both how he viewed the establishment clause (separation of church and state) and his view that only political speech is protected by the first amendment (Vieira & Gross, 1998). Judge Bork believed that art, literature, pornography and all other forms of speech, which were not political, could be censored by the government! Regardless of what his other constitutional views may have been, this in itself disqualified him from the highest court. Think I’m wrong? Let’s take a look at the first amendment as it is written in the United Sates Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I am no legal scholar but I think I understand what “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…” means. Unfortunately, politicians on both sides of the aisle have abandoned their obligation to protect the constitution. Whether it’s a bi-partisan law regulating campaigns (campaign finance reform), the creation of the Federal Communications Commission, or others who pass more stringent gun control laws, we deserve judges who will strike down these unconstitutional measures, regardless of what the majority wants.

All judges, especially if appointed to the Supreme Court, should pass this litmus test:
· Does he or she believe there is a wall of separation of church and state implied in the establishment clause of the constitution? If not, this judge should not be appointed.
· Does he or she believe the first amendment applies to all forms of speech as long as the speech does not provoke a ‘clear and present danger’ to others? If not, this judge should meet the same fate as Mr. Bork.
· Does he or she believe the right to bear arms is an individual right not a collective right? If not, the president should not appoint, the senate should not confirm.
· Does he or she believe the constitution provides a right to privacy implied in the fourth, fifth, and ninth amendments? If not, the appointee should provide a satisfactory explanation to meet senate approval.

This of course is a minimum standard; certainly there are other criteria that should be met. Having judges that pass this litmus test should not be too much to ask (but it probably is). Hopefully President Bush will appoint such individuals and overlook candidates who have a judicial philosophy similar to that of Mr. Bork. If not, we must hold out hope that the senate will do its job, upholding the constitution, not bowing to the edicts of a political party or the tyranny of the majority.


Vieira, N. & Gross, N. (1998). Supreme Court appointments: Judge Bork and the politicization of senate confirmations. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, IL. Retrieved November 14, 2004 from
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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Anyone Who Believes America is Winning the Drug War Must Be High

Could legalizing drugs be the answer to reducing drug use in America? Most people would probably call that idea crazy. Why would the government want to encourage drug use? This is a misconception most people have when the taboo topic of legalizing drugs is brought up. Many people believe that because something is legal, the government is somehow saying it is right. Tobacco is a legal product yet it is constantly under attack. When was the last time the surgeon general told the public that tobacco is safe and healthy? Could this reasoning apply to other drugs that are currently illegal, yet kill far fewer people than tobacco? In fact, tobacco kills more people every year than all illicit drugs combined (McWilliams, 1996). What would happen if tobacco was suddenly illegal? Would people who want to smoke try to find and buy cigarettes despite it being a banned substance? What would the consequences be of this prohibition? The result of course would be a complete failure, just as the prohibition of drugs has been a failure. There are three main reasons why the prohibition of illegal drugs should end: it is ineffective, it causes unnecessary strain on the criminal justice system, and above all, it is dangerous.

Prohibition is Ineffective
America spends roughly $30 million (Federal and State) a day to fight the war on drugs (Stossel, 2004). The White House is requesting for congress to appropriate an additional $556.3 million for the 2005 fiscal year above the 2004 figure of $12.1 billion (The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2004). If money was the solution to the drug problem, it would have been solved by now. Unfortunately, money and the programs the money supports has done very little to solve the problem.

While politicians fight this war from the comfort of their air conditioned offices, law enforcement officers see things from another perspective. An organization of police officers who oppose the drug war known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), conducted a national survey among police officers. The survey found that 95% believe America is losing the drug war. Over 90% believe that treatment and prevention is more effective than incarceration. When asked what would happen if drugs were discriminations or legalized, 30% of the police officers believed there would be no effect or that usage would go down (McNamara, 1995). Based on these statistics, one could imagine the frustration these police officers are dealing with and the morale for fighting on cannot be very high. Retired narcotics officer and LEAP board member, Jack Cole put it this way:

After three decades of fueling the [drug] war with over half a trillion tax dollars and increasingly punitive policies, illicit drugs are easier to get,cheaper,and more potent than they were 30 years ago. While our court system is choked with ever-increasing drug prosecutions our quadrupled prison population has made building prisons this nation’s fastest growing industry, with two million incarcerated-more per capita than any industrialized country in the world. Meanwhile drug barons continue to grow richer than ever before (2002).

One might conclude that with this number of people serving time for drug offences, this would be an effective deterrent. While some people may decide not to take drugs because of the sentences associated with them, most rightly conclude that the odds of getting caught are very slim. The people who are most likely to get caught are the poorest Americans. Police concentrate their efforts to fight drugs on the poor neighborhoods. The rich are less likely to get caught because police do not typically patrol rich neighborhoods unless there is a reason to suspect the illegal activity (McWilliams, 1996). Even innocent people who happen to be poor are not exempt from punishment. Strict drug laws for public housing tenants go beyond the offenders themselves. The law states that tenants are responsible for anyone who enters the property, who participates in illegal drugs in any way, on or off the premises. This means that parents who are doing the best they can to be productive citizens could be evicted from their home if their teenager brings drugs into the home. The Supreme Court ruled that the law does, in fact apply to the tenant regardless of whether the tenant has knowledge of the criminal activity or not (Pilon, 2002). Is it right for the government to remove innocent people from their homes in the name of fighting the war on drugs?

Prohibition Puts Unnecessary Strain on the Criminal Justice System
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenders is a major cause for prison over crowding. Violent offenders, who have no mandatory minimum sentence requirements for their crimes, are released early to make room for non-violent ‘criminals’ who do (Cole, 2002). Federal sentencing guidelines require a five year prison sentence for possessing a single gram of cocaine. One gram is equivalent to a single packet of sugar (FAMM, 2002). Approximately 4,000 people are arrested daily for selling or using drugs. Roughly a half million non-violent drug offenders are in prison right now, who committed no other crimes (Stossel, 2004). A drug felon is more likely to spend more time in prison than someone who steals, rapes, molests children or even kills (McWilliams, 1996). Is society better off locking up someone for drugs than any of these other more serious offences?

Making room for a half million non-violent drug offenders means allowing a half million violent felons to roam free. Peter McWilliams, author and expert on consensual crimes, made this observation and stated:

Here’s how over worked law enforcement is in the United States: Only 21% of the
people who commit murder and negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, or arson are ever arrested; 79% of them -
almost four out of five – get off scot-free (1996, p200)

In an effort to alleviate the problem of overcrowding prisons, some jurisdictions have turned to ‘drug courts’ as a solution. Recognizing the ineffectiveness of incarceration, Florida policy makers created drug courts as an alternative for first time non-violent drug offenders. Through the drug courts, drug offenders are given a chance to seek treatment instead of serving prison time. Florida’s drug courts have served as a model for the rest of the country (, 2002). In fact, the White House is recommending an increase of an additional $32 million for fiscal year 2005; nearly twice the amount appropriated in 2004 for these drug court programs (The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2004). While forced treatment is a better alternative than prison, treatment is only effective for those who truly want to get help. Even if drug users kick the habit, the criminal record that goes with it still has its consequences.

Drug Prohibition is Dangerous and Breeds Crime
Drug prohibition, as well intentioned as it may be, has at least one more consequence: it breeds crime and is dangerous. Why is it that people who, after being released from prison, return to a life of crime? Do they like being criminals? To answer these questions one must consider this: convicted felons cannot apply for federal student loans, have a difficult time finding jobs, have a difficult time buying or renting homes and are prohibited from voting (unless their civil rights are restored). There are no distinctions made between violent and non-violent offenders; a felon is a felon (McWilliams, 1996). The criminal record leaves ex-convicts with very few choices. The only market these most of these people qualify for is the black market. The experience of being locked up with violent criminals teaches inmates how to commit more crimes better.
Only 15% of people who try illicit drugs become addicts (Cole, 2002). For this unfortunate 15%, they find themselves desperate for more. Because prohibition artificially inflates the price of drugs, addicts resort to crime that does harm other people. Unless the addict happens to be very wealthy, stealing, selling drugs and prostitution are a few options for those whose daily drug habit can cost between $200 and $400 (McWilliams, 1996). Participating in the drug trade is very profitable but dangerous. When one dealer encroaches on another dealer’s territory, very bad things happen. Things like drive-by-shootings, which oftentimes endangers the lives of innocent people (Cole). If drugs were legalized, the price would drop dramatically and the drugs could be obtained safely. Even chronically addicted people would spend no more than $5 a day. Supporting a $5 habit would be a great deal easier than supporting a $400 habit. All that would be required would be a part-time job (McWilliams, 1996). In fact 80% of all crime is related to drugs one way or another. It is then reasonable to believe that legalizing drugs would reduce crime by 80% (Cole). Law enforcement could then use its limited resources on the other 20%.
Prohibition is also responsible for much of the health risks commonly associated with banned drugs. Risks include: selling drugs to minors, dirty needles and paraphernalia, uncertain dosages, and contamination (McWilliams, 1996). If drugs were legalized, the government could regulate and set quality control standards for all drugs; much like alcohol and tobacco. To keep children from purchasing drugs, the seller would have to be licensed and could only sell to adults. Currently, drug dealers sell to anyone who will buy them, including children. Quality control standards would result in a lower occurrence of overdoses. The users would know how potent the product is by its labeling. Dirty needles and paraphernalia would no longer be an issue (Cole, 2002). The drugs could also be taxed to fund treatment programs to help those who want to get off drugs as well as drug education programs for schools.

The very idea of legalizing drugs is a scary prospect to most people. Upon further examination however, one thing is very clear: the current strategy is not working. Though the risks would be dramatically reduced, a number of people would still overdose. Regrettably, though drugs would be less accessible to children, some would still get their hands on them. Minors drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes despite both products being illegal, legalizing drugs would have similar effects. As terrible as that may sound, the drug problem could at least be contained through legalization. Granting amnesty to those who have been convicted of non-violent drug offences along with legalization, regulation, treatment and education would go a long way to reducing drug use and crime in general. It is unrealistic to believe that America will ever be 100% drug free. A certain number of people will use drugs no matter what the laws are. Prohibition continues to do more harm to society than drugs ever will. Ending prohibition, though not a perfect solution, would do much less damage. This effective solution would relieve much of the burden on the criminal justice system and would make America a safer place to live. Until America as a whole believes this and plans to do something about it, our society will remain ‘high’ on its arrogance.

Cole, J. A. (2002). End prohibition now!. Retrieved April 22, 2004, from

FAMM (2002). Crack vs. powder cocaine sentencing. Retrieved April 7, 2004, from (2002, February 15). Drug courts. Retrieved April 8, 2004, from

McNamara, J. D. (1995, April 9). Cops view of the 'drug war'. San Francisco Examiner,. Retrieved April 7, 2004, from

McWilliams, P. (1996). Ain't nobody's business if you do: The absurdity of consensual crimes in our free country. Los Angeles, CA: Prelude Press.

Pilon, R. (2002, September 9). Tenants, students, and drugs: A comment on the war on the rule of law. Retrieved April 7, 2004, from

Stossel, J. (2004). Give me a break: How I exposed hucksters, cheats, scam artists and became the scourge of the liberal media.... New York: HarperCollins.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (2004, March 1). National drug control strategy FY 2005 budget summary. Retrieved April 10, 2004, from

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Welcome Readers

Welcome readers! I am very excited about this, my first blog experience. I have always wanted to find an outlet to express my views; this appears to be the best forum. Arguing with pundits on the radio or television only satisfies this need in a very limited way. I am hoping this will be more interactive. Otherwise, I find myself offering my opinion to others who are not particularly interested in it. You, the reader may not always like what I have to say but you will (or not) read my views of your own free will and at your own risk of being offended.

I named this blog Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds because I believe that there is a great deal of distortion in our national debate from both the Left and the Right. How much of this last presidential campaign dealt honestly with issues of honest disagreement? How much of it was true and how much was spin? Did the candidates assume that we could think for ourselves, laying out a factual case or did they assume we were sheep that could be lead with the right slogans, buzzwords, and ads? How many of us let them? How many of us looked at each candidate critically before decided who should lead this country for the next 4 years?

The goal of this blog is to introduce a fresh dialogue for past and present issues, stripping away the spin and distortions to the raw bone. Fearless Philosophy means being able to vigorously defend one’s point-of-view without resorting to the usual name calling and fallacious arguments. Fearless Philosophy also means applying the same philosophical standards to your proponents and yourself equally to your opponents.

Sometimes emotions drive the issues more than logic. This is normal. However, the better way to make a point is though reason and logic. We are all guilty of allowing our emotions overtake us in a heated debate. I fully expect that some of my editorials will generate a great deal of emotion. This is part of the fun. I also hope we can all learn something about the state of our culture, our country, and our world from each other; from everyday citizens from all walks of life and from every political vantage point.

Some believe disagreement is a bad thing and that we need more unity. I couldn’t disagree more! (I will expand on this in a future blog). Sure, it would be nice if all my readers agreed with my every word in a way, but what would be the point? With the topics of taxes, government waste, education, affirmative action, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, terrorism, the judicial system, church/state separation, censorship, sex, abortion, gay marriage, just to name a few topics I plan on covering, all invoke passions on one side or the other.

I sincerely look forward to reading your reactions. I will post the best articulated arguments on my blog whether you agree with me or not. Actually, I look forward to answering those critical of my opinions the most. This is what moves the debate forward. I may even post some of the, let’s say, less articulate arguments as well just for my amusement and the amusement of the other readers.

To wet your appetite to start this debate, in my next blog I will begin with a topic I believe there is a little too much unity between the two major political parties with too little debate: the war on drugs. Enjoy the appetizer!
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