My weekly newspaper columns are usually about local issues, but as this week's column had a national bent, I figured I'd post it here for all of you Huffers to enjoy.
We're nearing the July 4 holiday, so it's that time of year when decent, God-fearing, tax-paying citizens like me start to dwell on what makes this country the great place it is. ... Raise the flag, launch the fireworks, grill the meat, and read on!
• We can eat as much crap as we want. Given the state of the global economy, those damned pinkos in Cuba have had to restrict services and goods to their people. The plus to living in the "workers' paradise" that is the Cuban nation is that no one starves -- the government allots each citizen a ration of rice, chicken, beans, eggs and other staples, all for about a dollar. Unfortunately, the amount of food involved means the sort of crash diet that only a supermodel could love. Happily, here in the States, we have dollar menus at all the fast-food joints that assure we will remain steeped in grease and fat for the foreseeable future, regardless of the sagging economy. Huzzah!
• Finally, after years of wrongheaded, unjust, vindictive drug policy, at least one state is seriously discussing legalizing weed for recreational purposes. Unlike in Cuba, in which the poor economy has resulted in hour-long waits for buses on which travelers get packed in like sardines, in California, the complete destruction of the world financial markets is our gain! Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (anyone else still feel silly when saying the word "governor" followed by "Arnold Schwarzenegger"?) and his state government are considering legalization because the influx of taxes on ganja would generate about $2 billion a year, much-needed revenue given that the state is essentially bankrupt. It's sad that sensible drug policy has to come on the heels of disastrous economic policy, but at least we're finally recognizing our No. 1 cash crop. According to FBI stats, in 2006, about 830,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related charges, 89 percent of them -- three-quarters of a million people -- for simple possession alone. So never mind the tax base that legal pot would generate; also consider all the savings that could be had by not housing these potheads in our ever-burgeoning prison population. Maybe we could finally avoid the dubious title of Nation With Most People Incarcerated. Add to that the fact that the Mexican drug cartels earn about 75 percent of their money from the sale of marijuana, a cash flow that legalization would seriously curb, and this becomes a no-brainer. Admittedly, "no-brainer" also will describe a good third of the population the day after we legalize the herb, but what the hell; many people lead perfectly productive lives while keeping up a serious pot habit, working as NFL running backs or weekly magazine columnists.
• Leave it to the theocracy of Iran to hold a tainted, FUBAR election. In our beloved American democracy, a nutjob, saber-rattling, far-right yahoo with all the brains of a gnat could never steal a presidential election. According to numbers supposedly leaked by the Iranian interior ministry, and from there reported by the London Telegraph and on blogs across Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually came in third in the presidential election held this past Friday, gaining only 5.7 million votes and losing to both the primary reform candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi (19.1 million), and secondary reform candidate, Mehdi Karoubi (13.4 million), with conservative candidate Mohsen Resai coming in a distant fourth at 3.7 million. Whatever the final numbers, it is a bit eyebrow-raising that, with 40 million votes, all on handwritten paper ballots as opposed to the computers we use here, Ahmadinejad could be announced as the winner only two hours after polls closed. Similarly eyebrow-raising: The fact that the people who may have had their votes stolen went out into the streets by the millions and shut down the capital city for days, despite being ruled over by a dictatorial theocrat who could easily have turned Tehran into Tiananmen -- Gore voters, you are all pussies.
• In our never-ending Global War on Terror, we remain ever-vigilant against terrorist evildoers in all their forms. Unless that terrorist is Scott Roeder, who allegedly killed an abortion doctor. Or James von Brunn, who reportedly shot up the Holocaust Museum. Or Richard Poplawski, who, convinced Obama would take his guns away, allegedly took out three police officers in Pittsburgh before being arrested. Or Joshua Cartwright, who killed two more cops up in Okaloosa County; according to the sheriff there, Cartwright had been interested in "militia groups and weapons training." Or the three people from the Minuteman American Defense group who were arrested this past weekend on murder and robbery charges stemming from the home invasion of a Mexican man who was killed along with his 9-year-old daughter. Or Jim Adkisson, who pleaded guilty this past February of marching into a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tenn., and unloading his shotgun on the crowd during a children's play because he wanted to "go kill liberals." Truly, freedom is on the march. Happy Independence Day.
Send American flags to Dan Sweeney at email@example.com.