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John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

The political right wing, and its partners in big business, are on a roll these days. But they seem to be confused about the direction in which they should be rolling.

Take, for example, the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, which was 200 miles in circumference and growing as of this writing.

The thinking of the moment has come up with such brilliant suggestions as burning off the slick spreading over the Gulf , which is coming at a rate of some 5,000 barrels a day from a valve destroyed by an explosion that also destroyed an off-shore oil rig and killed 11 workers.

Experts say that 95-98 percent of the slick would be “consumed” by the fire, but would give off a dense fog of soot and smoke. So that leaves Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida threatened with two appalling options. One would give them oil-slicked beaches and coastlines, along with a massive die-off of fish, birds and other wildlife reminiscent of the Exxon Valdez disaster. The other is a pall of greasy haze hanging over them for no-one-knows-how-long.

And to cap it off, the company that owns the busted rig, BP Petroleum, now says it wouldn’t mind a little help from the government in cleaning up the mess.

At first glance, that might not be a bad thing, since the government (that’s you and me, in case you forgot) have a vast amount of reserves and resources that can be thrown at this debacle.

But BP, which likes to tout itself as among the greenest of the energy industry, has been marching in lock-step with its cohorts in resisting meaningful controls and regulation by the same government that is now being asked to help with the mess.

To me, this seems like a classic case of wanting it both ways. The government should keep its hands off the industry in terms of ensuring its methods and technologies are safe and sound, but when things go wrong, Uncle Sam should step in to save the day.

Here in Colorado, we have a different kind of example of how the right wants to have its cake and eat it, too.

So-called “conservatives” have long milked the War On Drugs for every bit of political benefit they could get, and they continue to do so with regard to Colorado’s voter-approved medical marijuana laws. They are joined, of course, by some of their nominally more-liberal counterparts in the state legislature, which is busily crafting legislation that would essentially undo the voter’s decision in 2000, when the law won approval by a healthy margin.

The new law, in its more draconian provisions, would require medical marijuana dispensaries to pay $35,000 or more in licensing fees, meaning that small outlets would be muscled out of the action by larger, wealthier competitors. Think of it as the Wal-Martization of the medical marijuana business.

Not only would this put the nascent industry in the hands of big business – and it clearly is a big business, considering the number of dispensaries that have popped into existence – but it probably would force patients interested in using pot as medicine to drive long distances to find dispensaries and, many observers agree, pay higher prices for their medicine.

Laws forcing this drift toward consolidation and government-sponsored control of personal choice would seem to be antithetical to interests calling for smaller government, less intrusive government, support for small businesses and the like.

But the fact is that big businesses line the pockets of our elected representatives, and just as is the case with the anti-abortion movement, such heavy-handed laws are perfectly acceptable to moral zealots eager to force the rest of us to live under their narrow, backward-leaning social standards.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Hypocrisy and double-standards are certainly nothing new in these United States, but it all leaves me with a queasy feeling in my stomach and a sense of fear and loathing about our collective future.


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