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Our democracy is in grave danger

It is so disheartening to hear, read or view the extreme rhetoric being used against our president these days. Though he may not be as polished as previous presidents, he is trying to restore common sense to the cultural upheaval taking place today. It is so unfortunate that the “Hate Trump” coalition has interpreted everything he has done or is trying to do into negative, biased, misleading outcomes. The general media has turned into an opinionated, agenda spreading operation. If it in any way sheds a good light on Trump the media will either distort it or eliminate it as news. What happened to a media that reports facts, and facts only? If the only news one is getting is CNN or the regular networks, you are not getting “the rest of the story.” Better  check out alternate sources. (e.g. O’Reilly.com, Sean Hannity on Fox News) Take this whole “children being separated from their parents” sequence when illegal passage into our country has taken place … First, it is reported as if it was something new that Trump started, when in reality it has been on the books for decades. When it was brought to his attention, President Trump issued an executive order to change it. Did that matter? No! Liberals fueled massive protests in our streets causing chaos, unrest and division. Whatever happened to law and order? My dad came to America from Italy when he was 16. He had a sponsor, someone who would be responsible for him, provide him with housing and see that he had a job. It was done according to law. He worked hard, settled down and became a citizen. He was not dependent on the government. What about all the Latinos that are citizens today, having followed the procedures set up for orderly entrance and assimilation into our country? What kind of common sense dictates that our borders should be open to everyone who wants to come here without any requirements? Doesn’t it concern liberals that drug dealers, terrorists and criminals are among those getting through? And how are we supposed to absorb thousands of people who have no place to live and no jobs and now depend on our government for sustenance when we are over $20 trillion in debt? Better to lend support to nonprofit organizations in place to help people in their own countries. They are coming because of “coyotes” who rob them of their money, tell them to cross the border and say that they are seeking asylum and then they can have a free ride. These vulnerable people are put at great risk to themselves, some of them even dying along the way. Do we want to encourage this sort of thing? That there are worthy people coming who want a better life for themselves and their children is not in question. I have deep compassion for them. But to seek entrance illegally is not in anyone’s best interest and has to have consequences just as we Americans have to face consequences when we break our own laws. Why would we support anything else? We are seeing the results in our society of open borders and it is chaos. I couldn’t understand the reasoning behind promoting this; then I was educated about the ideological civil war going on in our country. Unfortunately, the Democratic party is no longer the party of the past. It has been taken over by socialists who want to change our democracy. Barack Obama started the process by announcing “fundamental change.” And we see it in the violent, hateful, disruptive behavior of the left in every area of our culture. Our campuses are overrun by extremists. It is now a crime to be white and everything that doesn’t agree with their agenda is labeled racist. So the more immigrants they can coax to come in, the greater voting block they command. Do they really care about these people or are they just pawns in a larger agenda? We had better open our eyes. Socialism is the end product of today’s massive movement. Our democracy is in grave danger. It is such a paradox. People flock here because of the freedoms we take for granted and the opportunities we have to better ourselves through work and initiative. But these extremists want to change it all, toss away all the hard fought for privileges our forefathers left us. What kind of future do we really want for our children. Do we want a society where law, based on our Constitution, keeps us safe, free and productive? Or do we want to be controlled by a government big enough to take away all our rights and our freedoms? We had better search for truth before it’s too late.

Loretta Hastings – Franklin, N.C.

Political ‘drug war’ in U.S. an abysmal failure

In the July 12 edition of the News staff writer Davin Eldridge explores the “Drug War” issues in some detail, and I add my thoughts in response.  While anyone with a sound moral mind will condemn violent and damaging crime no matter where they reside, non-violent and victimless crimes are viewed differently depending on mostly political factors and the education of the populace. For example, in North Carolina cannabis (marijuana ) is illegal in all regards but by simply changing location to any of the states that have decriminalized and regulated the herb (now a majority) one eliminates the threat of criminal sanctions. It is not a moral issue but a political one. No state will ever legalize violent crime of any type but political crimes, those in which the state legislatures simply ignore the will of the majority of voters in order to avoid criticism at election time or to maintain a veneer of the “conservative” label, are falling like dominoes in states where the will of the people is recognized and respected. A majority of Americans, and North Carolinians, support regulating cannabis rather than allowing criminal cartels to do so, and the billions of dollars in tax revenue we lose by virtue of prohibition laws are much appreciated by the criminal cartel bosses. The police and the cartels both hate the idea of regulation as it deprives them of money they desperately want. When the cartels and the police are of a single mind it makes you wonder, does it not? By any objective standard, the almost century old “drug war” is an abysmal failure in all respects. This is an undeniable fact. Billions of tax dollars have been flushed down the drains of bloated bureaucracies and police agencies with the result of a complete inability to stop or even limit drug use, the increased availability of drugs at lower cost and higher potency and the shameful fact that the USA has the highest prison population by far in the entire world. No beneficial goals are ever met by the drug warriors and the increased violence created by prohibition tactics has birthed a new militarized police state, where SWAT teams and machine gun toting masked agents storm into private homes and bring death and destruction to scores of citizens yearly, many times for nothing more than the “offense” of growing plants that are innocuous at worst and that should never have been vilified and made illegal to begin with. One definition of insanity is to repeat the same action over and over yet expect a different result. But as long as vast tax monies are allocated to the effort and the politicians ignore the will of the majority the agencies that benefit financially are more than glad to carry on with the losing (for taxpayers) formula. When we see police from multiple agencies congratulating each other and gleeful for the publicity they relish from pulling a few innocuous plants from the soil, one has to ask how many tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent to accomplish such a useless mission. The overall availability of cannabis was not reduced by one iota, society was not protected from harm in any way and I doubt that many taxpayers are impressed with their hard earned dollars being used so the police can grandstand and pretend they have accomplished something worthwhile. In states where regulation is the law instead of prohibition, the police concentrate on truly dangerous substances and crimes against persons and property, while in our state they still waste obscene amounts of money and time on grabbing the low hanging fruit, the easy and safe busts, that hold little risk but get them the publicity and bragging rights they crave as a means of justifying their squandering vast amounts of money. The police say in effect, “As long as it is technically illegal, we will continue to waste taxpayers money; it is the politicians fault.” That is why the choice must be taken from them, as their priorities are not the most effective and intelligent use of funds but the numbers of seizures and arrests and the resulting publicity they get from press releases. The public sees the obvious: It is like a street where drivers who are speeding and endangering lives are ignored while the police issue jaywalking tickets. Easy pickings with little risk is the default position for police when the laws allow it. It is an insult to the intelligence of the citizens for the police and politicians to pretend that cannabis plants are a threat to public safety. The prohibition laws and the rewards police agencies glean from rabid enforcement of them actually created, and still create the more concentrated and dangerous drugs we see flooding the nation. For example, in the not too distant past “speed” type drugs were mainly used by long haul truckers and students cramming for exams, and could be had by going to a pharmacy or a doctor and getting dexedrine formulations of known strengths and purity at low cost. Abuse was not a wide issue. But by banning such access the market was relegated to the underworld, who for the sake of efficiency and profit used clandestine laboratories to manufacture a much more potent product with no regulation of purity that was easy to smuggle in quantity and distribute rapidly, hence the “meth” scourge we see today. Pain medications, both for legitimate patients and those who have the propensity to addiction, a disease and health issue, were easily available by prescription, had known purity and dosages and were inexpensive, which meant  no need to steal to get one’s supply. But a very few doctors over prescribed these medications and greedily established “pill mills”  for great profits. Instead of simply cracking down on these establishments the government and states discouraged all doctors from prescribing pain medications at all, not only abandoning the true chronic pain sufferers that the country has in the millions, but driving the other users as well into the hands of the cartels that gladly supply heroin and other opiate formulas to anyone with the means to pay. The government has been using a technique for ages called Creation/Reaction/ Solution: Create a “problem” where little or none exists, frighten the citizens with lies and horror stories (remember Reefer Madness?), and then offer a solution, which of course never solves the problem but requires obscene amounts of money to implement and maintain. It is how bureaucracies grow and prosper and how politicians claim to be doing something positive while ignoring the glaring fact that no progress is ever made. Meanwhile civil rights are stripped away in the name of “fighting a war” and individual liberties are sacrificed on the altar of “saving the children” in spite of the fact that kids are more at risk when regulation and age limits are left to dealers in back alleys rather than licensed establishments. Kids today find it harder to get liquor than drugs; no one in the black market is asking for ID. It is insane policy that cannot be defended by any rational standard. Rationality and politics are strangers, a fact that may help explain why so few young people have any faith in government and view voting as a useless exercise that changes nothing. Of course this suits the law enforcement establishment quite well as they make their money from capturing, caging and imprisoning the users of banned substances, as well as from asset forfeiture, a legalized form of theft from those who do not even have to be charged with a crime but who have possessions that the police “suspect” may be the gains of crime. The abuses of this “guilty until proven innocent” scheme are well documented. You might well ask “Well, what is the alternative?  If we look to the experience of other nations we see the obvious answers. Portugal had the same outlook as the USA, zero tolerance, lock them all up and give them a record that will insure they never get ahead in life, but chose to try something new, and it is working well. The results are undeniable and obvious. By the late 1990s, Portugal had reached a crisis point. Facing unprecedented rates of addiction, prison overcrowding, and a rapidly growing HIV epidemic, the country was in dire need of a solution. Change finally occurred when in 2001, it decriminalized all drugs, embarking on the first step of a great nationwide experiment. It treats drug addiction as a health issue and not a crime, and differentiates hard drugs from soft, as the Netherlands does with cannabis. Decriminalization is not legalization; drug offenders may still incur penalties, but the idea is to redirect enforcement resources and prevent flooding prisons with non-violent offenders. Portugal has seen significant positive change in the realm of disease prevention, with nationwide HIV rates decreasing dramatically since decriminalization. In 2014, only 40 intravenous drug users tested positive for HIV, down from 1,482 in 2000. The good news doesn’t stop there. After a decade and a half of battling Hepatitis C with lackluster results, the Portuguese government committed to 100% coverage of the disease. Since then, 96% of those who finished treatment have been effectively cured. Anyone with no more than a 10-day personal supply of drugs may have them confiscated, they are not arrested, but referred for counseling if needed. Rates of drug use have gone down and crimes associated with avoiding capture, such as resisting the police have almost disappeared. In fact the police are among the policies greatest supporters; they can concentrate on helping victims of real crimes, such as domestic violence and rape and robbery instead of spending countless hours processing petty drug users through the system and alienating entire generations of citizens who resent such prohibition laws. In Canada there are safe injection sites where people determined to inject drugs can do so safely under supervision. To date not one death has resulted from these safe zones, where on the streets and back alleys of America dozens or more die daily. In Holland cannabis is legal for anyone over 18 at coffeeshops that are highly regulated and keeps the customers away from dealers of hard drugs. In Switzerland long term hard core addicts are given their fix for free and thefts by addicts to pay for their needs have virtually been eliminated. Canada recently legalized adult use of cannabis nationwide and many others are following suit. It is the only logical and sane policy to adopt. As long as politicians ignore the reality of their failures in favor of electoral gamesmanship nothing will change. North Carolinians cannot by law even force the politicians to do the right thing. We cannot bring ballot measures for a vote despite the majorities desire to do so, we must wait, ad nauseam, for the craven and selfish politicians to do the right thing, and that is an exercise in futility. America can be “great again” when it admits its faults and works to change them. Ignorance is not bliss for the victims of stubborn refusal to recognize the truth at the highest levels of government, and the taxpayers are getting sick and tired of watching their hard earned money go down the black hole of ineffective and needless police priorities.

Rich Moore – Sylva, N.C.

Put the doors back on the voting booths

Remember this, Americans: The next time you walk into a voting booth you will not be able to close the door behind you. Vladimir Putin’s International Door Removal Company (Putin/DoReCo) stole the hardware sometime prior to the 2016 U.S. election. Putin consistently tells Donald Trump that he did not. Trump chooses to believe Putin rather than the facts provided by trustworthy building inspectors (FBI, CIA NSA and other reliable U.S.employees). Who do you prefer to believe? Who do you trust? Vladimir Putin? Donald Trump? Or America’s reliable, long-standing building inspectors? How can we have confidence in our election system if we can’t close the doors on the voting booths? Put the doors back on!

Dave Waldrop – Franklin, N.C.

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