Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Good news: Marijuana decriminalization on the ballot in Grand Rapids in November

I have to admit, I was skeptical that they could do it, but the group Decriminalize GR has successfully gotten an initiative petition onto the ballot in November to decriminalize the possession of Marijuana in Grand Rapids. They turned in over 10,000 petition signatures, much more than the 6,000 or so required. Today the City Commission approved the language, the last step in ensuring it will be on the ballot in November.

This is incredibly good news. The war on drugs has been the most destructive government program in the history of our nation. More crime, cost, death, and pain comes out of making marijuana illegal than the drug itself could ever cause. The constitution is regularly violated and trimmed back in the name of the war on drugs. Government programs proliferate, costing us billions a year. Thousands of people are murdered each year, here and abroad, all in the name of "stopping the supply," which clearly is a gigantic failure.

I'm hoping that this will open up a debate on the failure of the war on drugs and an eventual focus on treatment rather than criminalization. Already, one city commissioner has shown that he's more interested in protected vested interests and the status quo than fixing this failure. First Ward City Commissioner Walt Gutowski has already come out against the ballot question. That's unfortunate. When the pros and cons of the war on drugs are weighed, it is by every possible measurement a failure. Perpetuating it only perpetuates failure.

If you can afford it, please send Decriminalize GR a few bucks to fund the coming educational campaign to get Grand Rapidians to embrace policy sanity.

The ballot language is available online.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Same-sex marriage approaching majority support in Michigan

I was one of the few bloggers in 2004 who opposed the constitutional ban on same sex marriage in November of that year. Of course, it passed with about 59% of voters saying "yes." My comments back then included the following:
We have a hard time finding a logical argument against gay marriage. The most-often used argument is that marriage is part of the fabric of society and that if marriage is “ruined” to allow gays to marry, society will somehow collapse. In fact, the proposed amendment’s own wording says that the intention is to preserve the benefits of marriage “for the children.” But, exactly how would gay marriage harm children or be any different than today’s world of straight-only marriage?

* * *

But an even more fundamental question comes to mind. Why should we mess with our constitution on an issue that has purely emotional effects? We can’t determine one real, tangible, societal effect gay marriage would have. Who would be harmed by gay marriage?

Our constitution is designed to do two things – define the rights of citizens that government cannot infringe upon and define how government operates. It does not define social issues that should be handled solely by the legislature, nor should it.

Since then, several states have expanded the institution of marriage to same-sex couples, either through court rulings or legislative action. And guess what, no negative effects can be discerned. In fact, interestingly, divorce is actually lower amongst gay couples than straight couples (gasp!). According to a study by the Williams Institute:
The percentage of those same sex couples who end their legal relationship ranges from 0% to 1.8% annually, or 1.1% on average, whereas 2% of married different-sex couples divorce annually.

Oops! What do the "pro family" wingnuts have to say to that? Well, nothing of course, because their position isn't based on rational decision making, it's based on emotion and irrational distaste for people who are different from them.

But, even more interestingly, the support for same-sex marriage has been on the rise across the nation. In fact, it has increased in every single state since the rash of anti-gay constitutional amendments was unleashed in the mid 2000s. A funny thing happens when you get to know someone who is gay; you realize that they want the same things that everyone else wants -- a good job, a decent house, a car that runs, and a family. That's why minds are changing so quickly, because people realize that the anti-gay position is irrational.

According to a recent study from Georgia State University, a plurality of states now has majority support for same-sex marriage, whereas no state had a majority just a few years ago. The rate of change is stunning. In Michigan in particular, the rate of support has increased from 29% in 2004 to 42% now. That's an average annual increase in support of about 2.5%. At this rate, our state will reach majority support in just a few years.

You can see the rate of change across the whole nation by viewing the study here.

Hopefully, in a few years the voters of Michigan will have an opportunity to reverse the mistake they made in 2004 by constitutionally banning same-sex marriage. I believe that the anti-gay spasm of the mid 2000s will be seen an an historical embarrassment.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Epic Takedown of The Rapid's Waste

Deer in headlights
I just had this video forwarded to me by a friend and it is a must see! A local media outlet finally took on The Rapid and its lies and waste. Normally local media, like the Grand Rapids Press, just regurgitate every press release that The Rapid puts out with no critical analysis at all. Or, as we saw last year during the "Silver Line" vote, the Grand Rapids Press reporter was essentially the Propaganda Minister for The Rapid, reporting false information and ignoring facts that The Rapid found uncomfortable. Frankly, the local media's inability to report anything negative on The Rapid is baffling when they regularly go after Grand Rapids Community College or the City of Grand Rapids. This is despite the fact that The Rapid is the most wasteful government agency in the area.

Nonetheless, David Bailey of Channel 3 took them on and the result is epic. Peter Varga, the director of The Rapid, is a deer in the headlights when he is confronted with facts. Watch the video below and marvel at how incomprehensible his argument is -- that is, when he can actually muster up the ability to speak.

UPDATE: Watch part two of the video report below. It's even better than part one!! See Peter Varga, the "CEO" of The Rapid, walk out of the interview because he can't handle the questioning!