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Party panders to special interests to raise the deficit to take away Americans' personal medical freedoms

(This article deals with politics and the internet -- those who do not wish to read about these topics are forewarned)

The Republican National Party (RNP) published its platform -- entitled "We Believe in America" -- on Aug. 29, 2012, presenting the party's federal vision for America.  The platform claimed three primary authors -- Senator John Hoeven (R-N. Dakota), Governor Bob McDonnell (R-Virg.), and Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

In our first piece we analyzed the internet policy and free speech side of the platform.  In this article we offer up nuggets from the scientific side of the platform.

I. Digging Into the RNP "We Believe..." Platform

Reading the document I think the public may find many appealing aspects in the platform, starting with the subtitle "Reforming Government to Serve People" -- surely a worthwhile goal given today's state of hyper-deficits and inconsistent taxation.

But the troubling aspect of the platform from the perspective of a technology and science observer is the high degree of inconsistency and obfuscation amongst the various platform planks (though to be fair I fear we shall find similar problems in the Democratic National Party's (DNP) platform).

Let's dig into what exactly the platform says -- after weeks of rumors and speculation -- but first let's be perfectly clear what the platform is.  

It is somewhat of a myth to say that America does not have or has never had viable third parties -- President Andrew Johnson, the man who succeeded President Abraham Lincoln -- was effectively a third-party president after publicly renouncing the Democratic Party while in office, while also refusing to join the Republican ranks.

But in all practicality, the nucleus of political power in America today is largely binary.  And today it takes millions of dollars to get elected to office.  2008 marked the first race in which the average "price" of a seat in the House of Representatives passed the $1M USD mark.  The candidate with more money won 9 out of 10 federal races.  Much of that funding comes from the national party, which in turn receives a mixture of money from small donors and hefty special interests.


Against that backdrop, consider that the RNP's and DNP's platforms are non-binding, yet they do carry substantial weight and pressure.  Candidates who buck the carefully laid out talking points in the platform risk losing funding, and by proxy losing a job opportunity.  Of course there may be some element of pandering to the platform -- so it's not impossible to fathom that either party might adopt a plank (passage) that they have no real intention of enforcing.

II. Science v. Religion: The War on Drugs, Research, and Medical Freedoms

The RNP platform offers an incredible degree of cognitive dissonance. Most of it deals with the Republican party proposing large, intrusive federal expensive expenditures to regulate personal choices on medical interest at the behest of special interests or religion basis, not a scientific basis.

-- restricting scientific research or medical freedoms for religious (and not scientific) reasons, or at the behest of special interests.  For example the RNP states (pg. 34):

We call for expanded support for the stem-cell research that now offers the greatest hope for many afflictions– with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and cells reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells–without the destruction of embryonic human life. We urge a ban on human cloning and on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos. We support restoring the Drug Enforcement Administration ban on the use of controlled substances for physician assisted suicide. We oppose the FDA approval of Mifeprex, formerly known as RU-486, and similar drugs that terminate innocent human life after conception.

So the party's plank basically states: ban embryonic stem-cells that could be used to treat disease victims, ban the morning after pill, and ban assisted suicide.

Embryonic stem cells
The RNP wants to ban embryonic stem cells that could treat paralysis victims. [Image Source: Metrolic]

Likewise (pg. 38) the RNP states:

The resources of the federal government’s law enforcement and judicial systems have been strained by two unfortunate expansions: the overcriminalization of behavior and the over-federalization of offenses. The number of criminal offenses in the U.S. Code increased from 3,000 in the early 1980s to over 4,450 by 2008. Federal criminal law should focus on acts by federal employees or acts committed on federal property – and leave the rest to the States. Then Congress should withdraw from federal departments and agencies the power to criminalize behavior, a practice which, according to the Congressional Research Service, has created “tens of thousands” of criminal offenses. No one other than an elected representative should have the authority to define a criminal act and set criminal penalties. In the same way, Congress should reconsider the extent to which it has federalized offenses traditionally handled on the State or local level.

Yet on (pg. 37-38) they comment:

To that end, we support mandatory prison sentences for... repeat drug dealers... 

... a comment that alludes to the party's ongoing support of marijuna prohibition.  The marijuana issue is notable, as nearly half of criminals in U.S. prison have lost their liberty due to non-violent drug offenses, with a half of those prisoners (a quarter of all prisoners) being imprisoned for marijuana offenses.  

To put this in context, the U.S. has lost almost $2T in tax revenue on marijuana alone in the four decade "War on Drugs", launched by Republican President Richard Nixon, while spending $1T USD in taxpayer money for bloated federal enforcement.  Meanwhile, all three of America's last presidents -- Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama acknowledge consuming marijuana as youths (though Bill, famously, "did not inhale").  And the world's most prominent medical experts are in general agreement in the peer-reviewed literature -- marijuana is no more harmful to health and society than alcohol (legal) or tobacco (legal) -- in fact, in may be substantially less harmful.

To recap the Republican party wants to spend billions in taxpayer to jail, imprison, and otherwise financially ruin the lives of those who use the morning after pill, use a low-harm drug (marijuana), or who do research using embryonic stem cells.  It wants to expand federal government to act as moral police dog for the nation.  And it wants to ban a person's own right to end their life, even in cases where of chronic pain and suffering.

Yet the party claims it is about personal liberties and reducing the federal budget/deficit.

Some parts of the moral stands (e.g. the reproductive rights parts) may be mere pandering and may not see serious legislative action (although they may).  But the RNP is following narrowly the DNP's line of spending billions in the "War on Drugs", which is largely the "War on Marijuana".  It is extremely hard to see that war as anything other than an effort to funnel money to the alcohol and tobacco industry. 

Marijuana Mexico
Both Obama and Romney have accepted around $200,000 from the alcohol industry to keep marijuan illegal.  Both candidates plan to rack up billions in deficit debt to pander to the special interest bosses. [Image Source: AFP]

Tobacco Lobbyists have spent almost $2.5M USD this election cycle, with over 2/3rds of that money going to Republicans [source].  The alcohol industry has spent close to $5M USD [source].  Republicans have a slight edge, but overall the alcohol industry is much more equal in funding both parties, with both presidential candidates accepting close to $200,000 in special interest money.  Perhaps that's why both candidates want to continue the war on drugs, wasting taxpayer money to manipulate the "free market" -- after all, they've been paid to have that opinion.

Clearly there's a huge contradiction between the various planks in the RNP platform.

Source: GOP

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Permanent brain damage
By BifurcatedBoat on 9/3/2012 9:54:21 PM , Rating: 4
A recently completed study which followed the participants from age 13 to 35 showed that regular marijuana does lead to permanent brain damage, particularly if the person started smoking in high school.

They gave the participants regular IQ tests, and documented an average IQ drop of 8 points by age 35 for those who started smoking it between the ages of 13 and 18. There was a also a drop for those who started smoking at a later age, but it was less significant.

By comparison, those who didn't smoke marijuana actually gained a point on average over the course of the study period. Those who had stopped smoking for a year still had the drop in IQ, meaning that the effects are permanent.

So I don't think there is much question that smoking marijuana can be harmful, especially for those who start smoking early, which is most people who end up smoking it.

That said, if an IQ drop is debilitating, how much more so is prison time and the associated permanent criminal record preventing people from getting the jobs they could otherwise qualify for when they do get out?

RE: Permanent brain damage
By wordsworm on 9/4/2012 1:37:16 AM , Rating: 2
Heavy users have been found to lose their IQ points, while light smokers gained, according to the 2002 Canadian Medical Association Journal, which is a peer reviewed publication.

I'm guessing you're referring to the study done in New Zealand. Maybe folks in New Zealand are doing it wrong. They should come to Canada and learn how to improve their IQ through moderate usage.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By Wererat on 9/7/2012 10:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
My anecdotal experience matches the NZ study; people I knew who started in their teen years didn't fare terribly well later, while those who waited until college, unless they completely abused pot and caused themselves acute issues (like flunking out) did OK.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By dark matter on 9/4/2012 6:10:50 AM , Rating: 5
Heavy alcohol usage actually destroys brain cells. That is, complete destruction.

It also destroys the liver, and the pancreas.

Let alone the lives through drink driving and domestic abuse.

But yet that is legal.

Go figure.

Guess we know who funded that "research"

RE: Permanent brain damage
By geddarkstorm on 9/6/2012 2:05:34 PM , Rating: 3
Yep. Alcohol is nasty stuff from the biological view point, absolutely pure poison; and addictively so to top it all off. Some things in this world are idiosyncratic; but we know what happened when we tried to get rid of alcohol as a society. It's just too well established to kick yet, with thousands of years of use across the world behind it. Ironic it's one of the most destructive forces in human society and health.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By Sivar on 9/25/2012 12:09:37 PM , Rating: 2
Alcohol does not kill brain cells, despite popular belief (Google it!), but I agree otherwise -- every time a seemingly good argument for banning Marijuana comes up, alcohol seems to be clearly worse.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By senecarr on 9/4/2012 2:20:09 PM , Rating: 2
You're conflating changes with IQ with brain damage, which isn't an accurate assessment. Given that marijuana has a highly sedating effect, it could as easily be people on marijuana lose intellectual curiosity, rather than having damage to their actual brain.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By geddarkstorm on 9/6/2012 2:03:12 PM , Rating: 2
That depends on how IQ was tested. Properly constructed IQ tests can actually map out locations of damage in a brain, right down to specific regions. 8 points of IQ loss is very large and not the result of sedative (they wouldn't be allowed to smoke before the test, I would hope!), especially as the drop progressively increases over years of time. That is indeed brain damage.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By wordsworm on 9/6/2012 7:36:20 PM , Rating: 2
As I pointed out, a similar study in Canada showed that smoking weed increased IQ scores. So, NZ weed must be the problem.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By Flunk on 9/9/2012 9:22:34 AM , Rating: 2
That's arguably worse. Curiosity is the reason we don't all still live in caves.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By tigen on 9/6/2012 6:34:19 PM , Rating: 1
Link? Often with studies I've seen on marijuana in the past, the results are misleading. For example, reporting results based on the properties of someone who is high.

Even if it was proven to make you a little more stupid over many years that's still not justification to ban it and spend all these trillions and imprison so many people, plus all the other collateral damage and funding criminal gangs. It would just be something to let people know.

I wouldn't be surprised that if somebody spends many years getting high, they may become relatively more stupid. You have to consider what their overall lifestyle has been. With marijuana being illegal it would tend to reinforce negative behavior solely to that.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By Hakuryu on 9/10/2012 6:00:56 PM , Rating: 1
These studies are almost always built to show certain results because they are funded by those who wish those results. You don't think they actually gave 13 year olds pot do you? Real research has test subjects who receive drugs or placebo; it does not rely on what people say they do.

The real reason Marijuana is illegal is because it is so easy to grow; it is a weed after all. Alot of people talk about taxing pot, which you would buy in a store, but if it was legal, any old dirt and a few dollars for a fence to keep rabbits out could give you a lifetime supply.

A free source of your drug of choice? Not in this lifetime; big alcohol, tobacco, and drug companies will/have spent millions preventing it.

RE: Permanent brain damage
By NellyFromMA on 9/26/2012 1:40:12 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure the latest study actually confirmed the only brain cells that are harmed are DEAD brain cells which actually helps to promote healthy brain cell activity. Also, the same study definitively proved ceasing marijuana use also stimulated the brain to grown new healthy cells. No loss of healthy cells and potential for generation of more healthy cells when not chronically used.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher

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