Drug Policy

Two-Faced Power

I love my country, but my government confuses the hell out of me.

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Do policy makers care about consistency at all? To judge from their recent jumble of mutually exclusive directives, their actual goal might be mass psychosis.

Consider the ban on the diet supplement ephedra, a mild stimulant that human beings have used for thousands of years. The Food and Drug Administration could not cite any substantial threat to human health posed by the drug, merely an opinion that bureaucrats in Washington would not use the stuff.

OK, fair enough. If absolute suppression of even the smallest health risks is the goal, then let's roll with the ban. Except that across town from the ephedra ruckus, another group of bureaucrats was busy changing the federal rules on how much sleep truckers need.

The Bush administration, after much lobbying from trucking firms, decided to let truckers drive longer provided they sleep more. But you cannot spit in a truck stop or convenience store without hitting a display of something containing ephedra. So at the same instant the feds allow truckers to drive longer, they ban something truckers commonly use to stay awake. Or was the idea to make ephedra as easy to get and use as crank?

Wouldn't it be simpler and safer to let truckers drive as long as they want, provided they take ephedra? Is that any less nuts?

Wacky policy on the ground just leaves me shaking my head, but recent moves in the air have me shaking with rage. Once again the public is left to parse out the secret, hidden policy in the face of obvious nonsense.

First, the policy: Absent "sufficient" on-board security measures, the U.S. will use fighter aircraft to escort flights from overseas to American airports. In effect, the U.S. is saying to foreign governments, "Put sky marshals on your flights, or watch us park F-16s on your wingtips."

This is terrorism, albeit low-grade, undertaken to fight terrorism. Threatening to blow planeloads of innocents out of the skies unless your demands are met is insane, not to mention rewarding for your enemies. Just imagine what a chuckle Osama and crew get from the knowledge that they can depend on the Pentagon to put hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans and Europeans under threat of violent death merely by ramping up Al Qaeda telecom traffic. Talk about force multiplication.

Meanwhile, some members of Congress just pulled a doozy of a flip-flop, one that may just scamper down the memory hole thanks to our new definition of free speech.

After the nation's first mad cow case was discovered, Congress hastily moved to reverse itself and ban the sale of sick or "downer" beef for human consumption. In doing so, some House Agriculture Committee members reversed the votes they had made just weeks before on the same issue. I'm no cattle expert, but the crucial difference seems to be that during the first vote no one was paying any attention except the beef and dairy interests who gave money to the members of Congress, whereas the second vote led the evening news.

It isn't the crass political opportunism that's the confusing part. It's how the public is supposed to respond to it that has me flummoxed.

If I were to get together with other interested citizens to form Beef Eaters Against Fraud (BEAF), with the express goal of removing the flip-floppers from office, the Supreme Court says I can't do anything too effective. Now that most of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act has been upheld, using my First Amendment rights violates the law. So even if we figure out what policy makers are up to, they don't have to answer for it.

Raving moonbats have long posited a secret, gnostic government driven by hidden goals. I'm beginning to hope they are right, just so something will make sense.

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