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Marcus Flores » North of Center
 

By Marcus Flores

Egypt’s trial run with democracy ended in an abrupt transition from civilian to military rule, spawning an unusual number of critics of American foreign policy. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post writes that in the spirit of democracy, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s fate ought to have been decided at the ballot box rather than through a military coup. It’s a noble sentiment, but what if the Egyptians unwittingly elected a dictator?

Suppose such a leader appointed a terrorist to preside over the same city, Luxor, where his terrorist group smiled as it butchered 62 tourists; that such a leader’s party crafted the state constitution to read like a surah of the Koran; that, in regard to the September 11 attacks, he seriously said “When you come and tell me that plane hit the tower like a knife in butter, then you’re insulting us…something must have happened from the inside” ; that he forced the retirement of old generals because he preferred the more malleable younger officers. Suppose he then packed parliament with appointees from his own party and declared his executive orders supreme law of the land; that he aptly demonstrated his authoritarian instincts when he jailed bloggers and journalists for petty insults.

Honest question for Robinson: does that series of events not describe a protracted coup, albeit, by a legitimately elected leader? Continue reading »

 

By Marcus Flores

When Trayvon Martin died, it seemed that decency as well as level-headed thinking died too. Both perished in the wake of a media frenzy that clung to a narrative of race that was, in my opinion, the least salient element of a wholly ambiguous encounter that no one personally witnessed. I attempted to write a column to clarify this, though it was a failure due to the time I devoted to disentangling the legal minutiae as if I were an attorney. I remind you that I am not.

Nonetheless, Trayvon Martin’s death remains a tragedy of the highest order, and not in the least because the teen is dead. As a group, Americans wholeheartedly surrendered their faculties to the corporate manifestation of the left-right paradigm: the media.  Continue reading »

 

The legal haze over the war on drugs

By Marcus Flores 

Ginny Saville had been waiting. Several months passed before Lexington police realized they should probably obey a court order—not the first—requiring them to return tens of thousands of dollars of purloined bongs and rolling papers to The Botany Bay, Saville’s eclectic little store. By May 15, according to the store’s Facebook page, some of the goods had been returned.

It was a minor victory in a local battle in the national war on drugs. However, Saville cannot breathe a sigh of relief just yet: since this is not her first entanglement with the law, she runs the real risk of felony charges this time around. Understandably, both she and Chris Miller, one of the attorneys representing her, were hesitant to go on the record when I requested an interview. Continue reading »

 

By Marcus Flores

I spent my honeymoon in Curacao, an island in the southern Caribbean quite near Venezuela. Flying by commercial airline in the post-9/11 era entails security procedures that, while mildly inconvenient to some (my wife, for example), constitute civil rights infringements to others. As a libertarian, I think I needn’t bother saying to which camp I belong.

Perhaps it comes with the ideology, but I am also not scared shitless of the .00000004% chance of dying in a terrorist attack. No, what unnerves me is the chance that some drunken airline mechanic fails to notice a leaky hose, or that a recently divorced pilot brings his distractful personal baggage with him into the cockpit. (I am not at all reassured by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the Comair Flight 5191 disaster, which listed small talk among the factors that led the pilot down the wrong runway at Bluegrass Airport in 2006.) In short, I hope that more attention is directed at preventable dangers rather than the guy with the beard. Continue reading »

 

By Marcus Flores

In the beginning, Roy Allen made root beer. He initiated the first of many A&W franchises in 1919, which allowed Americans to reside inside their first love—automobiles—while being served curbside. And in 1927, a young Mormon missionary and his wife franchised an A&W stand in Washington, D.C., innovating once again by adding hot foods to the menu. That man was John Willard Marriott, and his is the name now perched atop some 3800 hotels.

Mobility is by now interwoven in American DNA; we crave our fast food and would be unable to do without the hotel chains and modern automobiles that enable access to virtually all of the United States.

Yet U.S. cities—concrete jungles, to use an apt metaphor—are far denser and hence competitive than those of yore. Some entrepreneurs have responded by channeling the innovative spirit that once prevailed among the fast food pioneers. By adding a set of wheels to their operation, they have displeased some brick and mortar restaurants who view the mobile invaders as an encroachment on their business.

Is this a legitimate claim? It’s certainly under discussion here in Lexington.  Continue reading »

 

By Marcus Flores

Wrapped ‘round the quarter acre plantation were 12-foot fences topped with razor wire. It was monitored by—although armed guards were preferable—24-hour infrared surveillance cameras. Along with a library of documentation, this fortress was required by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for the University of Hawaii’s 1999 permit to grow industrial hemp, a plant which has no psychoactive value.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified hemp alongside marijuana (and heroin and cocaine) as a Class I substance. Yet hemp, a subtype of cannabis sativa, was bred specifically to minimize the THC content as well as to maximize the strength of its fibers. Probably due to the cost of federal compliance, Hawaii did not opt to renew its permit, and so far it has been the only state to submit to the regulations of a government in denial about the medical as well as industrial applications of certain flora.

Common sense was at one time more prevalent in United States agriculture. In fact, hemp once made Lexington the center of the textile universe before it became illegal. Now, the United States must import from Canada the crops its Founding Fathers grew.    Continue reading »

Nov 072012
 

By Marcus Flores

Because everything an incumbent president does is, to his challenger, wrong, Obama’s résumé in the Middle East has become a sort of fetish during the debate season. Yet the responsible voter—who can momentarily set aside their Obama or Romney pennant—notes that both candidates are virtually indistinguishable on Iran, and that is a pity. Continue reading »

 

By Marcus Flores

Theoretically, extreme partisanship presupposes a thorough understanding of one’s own party. In reality, it is often an indicator of the opposite—particularly for celebrities who generally forget that fame does not beget wisdom.

Hank Williams Jr. is loose again, scattering falsehoods like a Texas tornado. He has mislabeled President Barack Obama a Muslim who does not celebrate the pastoral values of rural Americans—fishing, hunting, and cowboys. (How conveniently he forgets that Romney—an Ivy League businessman with a blemished NRA record—is not exactly the figure one would expect to see plowing a field.) But Williams did not stop there, and in fact went on to defame liberals and “queer guitar pickers.” His peroration was as grand as it was pathetic: “Obama loves gays and we hate him.” Continue reading »

 

The imperfect enjoyment

By Marcus Flores

Newly engineered chemical compounds offer a study of Isaac Newton’s Third Law: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For example, the government’s misplaced mania for prohibiting a certain plant provokes an equal and opposite response from citizens looking to get legally high. Meant to mimic marijuana, herbal smoking products “K2” and “Spice” have caused deadly side effects among Kentucky teens—among them heart attacks and seizures.     Continue reading »

 

By Marcus Flores

 Tomas Lopez, a lifeguard of Hallandale Beach, is a rule breaker. The young Floridian was fired because, try as he might, he simply could not suffer the rule that would have condemned a man to drown who was swimming in the “At Your Own Risk” area a few hundred feet away. Lopez was “out of his protected area,” said Susan Ellis, his former supervisor, “we have liability issues.” Continue reading »