Archive for September, 2009



Death of Common Sense–New Episodes

Published September 29th, 2009 by tcarpenter

Just when you think law enforcement bureaucrats can’t get any more irrational, comes this story (hat tip to my Cato Institute colleague Dan Mitchell) from Indiana.  A grandmother ran afoul of the drug war laws by making two purchases of cold medicine for her family.

When Sally Harpold bought cold medicine for her family back in March, she never dreamed that four months later she would end up in handcuffs.

Now, Harpold is trying to clear her name of criminal charges, and she is speaking out in hopes that a law will change so others won’t endure the same embarrassment she still is facing.

…Harpold is a grandmother of triplets who bought one box of Zyrtec-D cold medicine for her husband at a Rockville pharmacy. Less than seven days later, she bought a box of Mucinex-D cold medicine for her adult daughter at a Clinton pharmacy, thereby purchasing 3.6 grams total of pseudoephedrine in a week’s time.

Those two purchases put her in violation of Indiana law 35-48-4-14.7, which restricts the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or PSE, products to no more than 3.0 grams within any seven-day period.

When the police came knocking at the door of Harpold’s Parke County residence on July 30, she was arrested on a Vermillion County warrant for a class-C misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

The good citizens of Indiana can now rest easier knowing this nefarious drug lord has been apprehended.  Whatever happened to the concept of discretion by police and prosecutors?  Whatever happened to common sense?

And then there is this story about how a young couple lost custody of their young children for a month after a Wal-mart employee forwarded “bath-time” photos they had taken of the children to the authorities.  How many parents over the decades would have run afoul of such absurd suspicions of child pornography, if that standard had been the norm?

I’m interested in suggestions about how Americans can rein-in this runaway zealotry before it turns our country into something resembling the fascist and communist systems we used to abhor.

Inmates Running the Asylum, Episode 308

Published September 8th, 2009 by tcarpenter

Parents who dare to be affectionate to their children had better think twice about visiting Brazil with them after this episode.  I guess it’s nice to know that U.S. law enforcement bureaucrats are not the only ones who can be irrational zealots.  That realization, however, is mighty small comfort.  Why has common sense apparently died all over the world?

Afghanistan: The Graveyard of Empires

Published September 7th, 2009 by tcarpenter

Last week, I published an article in The National Interest Online about the folly of engaging in nation building in Afghanistan.  Following the 9-11 attacks, I strongly supported military action in Afghanistan to punish al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that gave the terrorist organization a safe haven from which to plan that dastardly attack.   But I also warned that we should not try to remake Afghanistan into a modern, stable, democratic country–in other words, try to pursue a utopian nation-building crusade.  Yet, during the Bush years, we gradually drifted into exactly that sort of mission.  And, unfortunately, the Obama administration seems to be escalating that effort.

The reality is that Afghanistan is not going to become a Central Asian version of Arizona–or even Arkansas–no matter how long we stay, how much money we spend, and how many American lives we sacrifice.   The country is not called “the graveyard of empires” for nothing.  Invaders from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union discovered that it was impossible to subdue that fractious society.  Now, the United States seems determined to make the same foolish error. 

We have to adopt realistic objectives.  It is possible to further disrupt and weaken al Qaeda.  But we must learn to treat that terrorist threat as a chronic, but manageable, security problem, not an overpowering threat that requires a definitive victory with a surrender ceremony (which isn’t going to happen anyway).   And it certainly doesn’t require us to (somehow) get the people of Afghanistan to become good 21st century democratic capitalists committed to gender equality.   That won’t happen for generations–if it ever does.

Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, we need an exit strategy, not the escalation strategy that the Obama administration is giving us.  On September 14, my colleague Malou Innocent and I will be publishing a Cato Institute White Paper giving a detailed analysis of the current situation and outlining such an exit strategy.  Please stay tuned.