08
Nov
10

Coming down

A couple of weeks before the election, I went off about the false equivalence of the two political parties, something that’s become part of the accepted common sense lately – that both parties are guilty of doing X, therefore they’re both equally blameworthy.  I think X, in this case, was serving their corporate masters instead of serving the interests of the middle class, or something like that.

I just saw this clip from Bill Maher, and since he made the point better than I could, I wanted to link to it.   He’s criticizing Jon Stewart’s crusade against incivility in politics, and though I’m a fan of the Daily Show, I have to agree with Maher.  Especially on this point:

When Jon announced his rally, he said the national conversation was dominated by people on the Right who believe Obama’s a Socialist and people on the Left who believe 9/11′s an inside job, but I can’t name any Democratic leaders who think 9/11′s an inside job. But Republican leaders who think Obama’s a Socialist? All of them.”

I know they probably don’t mean what they say, but there was a time – and not that long ago – when the Republican leadership seemed content to be wrong, without being dastardly.  At least, not all the time.

That’s it for my take on politics for a while though.  I’m done until there’s a reason to advocate for basic sanity again.

28
Oct
10

Funny, I don’t normally enjoy country music.

And the song is surprisingly upbeat.  Gee, I wonder why.

 

22
Oct
10

Speaking of news stories on new polls

Courtesy of the L.A. Times:  Prop 19 trailing badly, poll shows.

I found the demographic breakdown the most interesting part of the story.  Here’s the money quote:

“Likely voters younger than 40 are in favor of it by 48% to 37%, but older voters, who say they are more enthusiastic about voting in this election, are not. Among likely voters 65 and over, only 28% support the measure, while 59% said they were opposed.”

In 1972, a similar Proposition 19 was voted down by 66% of the electorate.

Were the Grateful Dead out of town?

If passed, that Prop. 19 would have simply decriminalized marijuana use and growing, but not sales.  In the argument against passage, State Senator H. L. Richardson and
Dr. Harden Jones closed with the following statement:

Proposition 19 would open the door to every possible act of conduct endangering others. Law
enforcement would be taxed beyond limits to cope with the problems created by the passage of
this measure. With any person legally capable of cultivating his own “weed” patch, it would be
impossible to enforce existing legislation.

Good thing voters were smart enough to vote to keep marijuana illegal, avoiding the hellish scenario of law enforcement being taxed beyond their limits, having to try to enforce laws that would be impossible to enforce, right?  If this new poll is correct, it sounds like the same crowd of people will be making the same decision for us all.

They may not have had much political saavy, but they sure made great posters.

Like I said, can’t wait till this is all over with.

 

21
Oct
10

Can’t wait till election season is over…

…and the people who call me on the phone really want to speak to me.

…and my mail is really mail.

…and the news isn’t filled with stories about new polls.

…and perfect strangers stop approaching me to give me reasons not to like them.

17
Oct
10

Defining change

I don’t know what it says about me that my favorite film of the past few months is a glacially slow, uber-dreary Romanian film by Corneliu Porumboiu, Politist Adjectiv.  Well, okay, that’s not entirely true.  I know what it says about me; it says that I’m exactly the sort of overeducated liberal elitist that the teapartiers have been complaining about.  Oh yeah, and I’m probably corrupting the youth of America with my radical marxist and/or fascist agenda, too.  Infecting them with my fact-and-reason based ideology. Sorry about that.

 

Yup, lots of shots of this guy, standing and looking sad. Romanians really know how to sell a film.

 

I can’t really recommend a film that reaches its dramatic climax when one guy reads dictionary definitions to another guy, though.  As much as I approve of dialectics in the classroom, it doesn’t make for the most exciting cinematic experience.  By all means, though, look it up if you’re into that sort of thing.

So, I don’t think I’m going to be giving too much away by describing the film.  Just in case, though, spoiler alert:  It’s all about a cop who doesn’t want to arrest a kid for smoking a joint.  As he points out to his bosses, the marijuana laws in Romania are a little anachronistic.  For all intents, simple possession has been decriminalized all across the more liberal countries in Europe.  The cop in this story points out that people smoke openly in Prague and Paris, and he complains that the 3-7 year prison sentence that the kid will receive is going to weigh too heavily on his conscience if he goes through with the arrest.  He keeps repeating his opinion that the draconian marijuana laws in Romania are on the cusp of being changed, but his bosses disagree.  More importantly, though, they disagree with his underlying belief that he has the right to consider his own views and feelings.

If that sounds familiar, that just means you’ve been paying attention.  Eric Holder’s recent statement to former DEA directors on the hopefully/potentially immanent passage of just that sort of decriminalization in California has been getting a lot of press coverage lately.   Holder isn’t really saying anything surprising when he asserts the DOJ’s strong opposition to Prop 19.  Just like it isn’t surprising that the DOJ will appeal US district court Judge Virginia Phillips’s injuction on the “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy that the Obama administration has been trying to end, and just like it isn’t surprising that they’re also going to appeal U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro’s finding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.  As odd as it sounds, our current Attorney General seems to feel that it’s his role to enforce the laws that we have, rather than the laws that he and his boss want.

 

Remember when this doofus was the top cop in the country? Yeah, I didn't think so.

 

Frankly, I’m not sure I understand all the hand-wringing from the progressives about this entirely-unsurprising discovery.  Wasn’t their complaint about Bush that he wasn’t following the law?

 

...that is to say, it used to be, back when we weren't doing it.

 

Well, okay, there were lots of complaints.  But I’m sure I remember hearing that one, too, among all the rest.

I don’t know about the rest of the complainers, but I voted for Obama – in part, anyway – because I wanted a return to rational, honest governance, not because I though he would just approve whatever I thought was right.  I wanted government to follow the law, and to improve it when they didn’t feel like it was effective, rather than just making shit up the way the Bush Administration did.  And for the most part, that’s just what we’ve had.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been happy to see more dramatic change – for instance, finding a way to fix Bush’s banking catastrofuck without simply handing bankers all the cash they wanted, or closing Guantanamo despite the difficulties, or choosing not to read my emails, etc. – but all things considered, I’m not unhappy, and I don’t think I understand why more people don’t share that sentiment.

 

At least the spelled his name correctly.

 

Well, that’s not entirely true, either; I suppose I do understand why all those Tea Party folks suddenly discovered that they cared about deficits as soon as Obama took office.  I’m just really surprised that anyone takes them seriously.

As I can’t seem to stop myself from repeating, if anyone deserves blame for the terrible economy, it’s the republicans who tanked it for us all, and then  decided that they’d rather see the country go down in flames than appease the black guy who happens to have been elected president of the US.

 

Remember when it was so important that we have "an up or down vote"? Yeah, I didn't think so.

 

I’ll reserve a little of that blame for the weak-kneed democrats in the Senate who can’t seem to overcome the handicap of an almost historic majority to actually, y’know, pass any of that legislation that they were all elected to pass, but the two don’t really compare.

Still, it was gratifying to read that some people in law enforcement have an awareness of history, and understand what’s actually going on here.  I’m talking about the former San Jose Chief of Police, Joseph McNamara, who was recently spotlighted in an article from the stoner-friendly Huffington Post.  Here’s the money quote:

“As we saw with the repeal of alcohol prohibition, it takes action from the states to push the federal government to change its policies…”Passing Proposition 19 in California will undoubtedly kick start a national conversation about changing our country’s obviously failed marijuana prohibition policies.”

His view seems persuasive, and sensible.  It’s not like the Feds can just tell us that they’re planning to ignore their own laws, but at the same time, they’re not going to be able to oppose the will of the states if they all decide to decriminalize marijuana, and it’s starting to seem like all of the states are on the same page.

And all things considered, I’m kinda glad that the republicans have decided to abandon their traditional “states’s rights” argument rather than stand with the rational center of the nation on this issue.  Not because I woudn’t like to see the policy end that much sooner, but just because I don’t like the idea of sharing even a little ideological ground with these clowns.

 

Dale Robertson, head of TeaParty.org. Back before the Tea Party leaders knew well enough to avoid being photographed.

 

13
Oct
10

Voodoo economics, again, and just in time for Halloween

In a recent post for the New Republic, Jonathan Chait lights into Pat Toomey, some fool politician from Pennsylvania, for saying something that’s popular, but demonstrably untrue.  Here’s the exchange:

Mr. Toomey says he favors making the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for all Americans — which would add $700 billion more to the deficit over 10 years than the plan advocated by President Obama to let the lower rates expire for the rich. But he also expresses a desire to reduce the deficit.At the ironworks shop, Mr. Toomey brushed aside a question from a local reporter who pointed out that real income for American workers dropped after the Bush tax cuts, saying he did not believe the data.

Are there even any rich people left in that state?  Honestly, why that’s a popular position to take in Pennsylvania is beyond me.  But then, I can’t really figure out how the vast herds of the non-rich have become convinced by republicans (and – in the interest of fairness – politicians dumb enough to be republicans ) to champion that cause for their social and economic betters, in any state.  Well, actually, I can – I teach, after all, so I see what’s become of education in this country.  Our long national assault on intellectualism and education has been bearing fruit for us for some time, and we seem to be reaching some kind of high-point in our national quest for willful ignorance.  And of course, at some point, it’s no longer going to be willful; it’s just going to be what we’re left with.

 

I done graduated from Oxford!

 

There was a time when disbelieving reality w0uld be considered an impediment to getting elected to the US Senate, but those times are not now.  Clearly.  In fact, as Chait goes on to point out, disbelieving reality seems to have become something of a requirement for office.  Now, no one in elected office seems to have the balls to tell their constituents the truth about how our most sacred myths of prosperity and wealth are based upon the confused ramblings of a bad actor who was only pretending to know something about economics.

 

Well, he's still better than Bush.

 

Here’s Chait, again, with the unpleasant facts about our recent tax history:

In 1993, conservatives unanimously predicted that Bill Clinton’s tax increase on incomes over $200,000 would slow growth, reduce tax revenues, and likely cause a recession. Instead, of course, the economy boomed and revenue skyrocketed. Then George W. Bush cut upper-bracket tax rates, and conservatives predicted that this would cause the economy to grow even faster. Instead, the economy experienced the first business cycle where income was lower at the peak of the business cycle than it had been at the peak of the previous business cycle. It is rare that events so utterly repudiate an economic theory.

None of this evidence has penetrated the conservative mind to the slightest degree. Reading the right-wing press, it is exactly as true today as it was 18 years ago that reducing Clinton-era upper-bracket tax rates holds the key to economic growth.

That’s not some secret conspiracy, either – all of that is obvious.

Actually, maybe that’s the problem.  When a majority of the voting public will only believe something that (1) clearly defies reality, and (2) appears nowhere but on Glenn Beck’s blackboard, I suppose it should come as no surprise when that same sort of idiocy is reflected back at us in our elected representatives.

 

It's only a matter of time...

 

That gives me an idea: I wonder if I could convince people that there’s a secret conspiracy where the obscenely wealthy conspire year after year to keep the vast majority of Americans poor, dumb and compliant?  Nah, I guess they’d never fall for that – it’s not unbelievable enough.

12
Oct
10

Prohibition is the issue

This Rand study showing that repealing marijuana prohibition won’t stop Mexican drug cartels from being violent will, no doubt, be making the rounds.

No, not that Rand study. I mean the slightly less-crazy one.

 

The pro-prohibition, anti-legalization crowd will, no doubt, seize upon this latest study to try to convince voters that they’ll be voting on issues beyond simply repealing prohibition when they vote on Prop 19; specifically, that they should consider their role in the overall structure and outlook of the Mexican drug cartels when they cast their vote.  In that regard, this argument will join the other straw-man arguments against Prop 19 that have been circulating more frequently as we approach this historic vote – you know, that ending prohibition won’t really produce more tax revenue, or that it won’t really keep kids off drugs, or that it won’t really help law enforcement officials focus on violent crimes, or that it won’t really reduce the population of non-violent offenders in our overcrowded prisons, etc., etc., etc.

 

I’m not saying this new study is wrong.  I’m just saying it’s beside the point.  Just like all those other arguments.

 

Enthusiastic Prop 19 supporters probably bear some responsibility in muddying the waters.  Recognizing that an end to a bad policy might be in sight, motivated activists may have added to the problem by promising more than they should have done, in an attempt to secure that long-awaited end to marijuana prohibition, arguable the dumbest front in our over-long war on drugs. Or  maybe Prop 19 opponents are smarter than I think they are, and this is all part of their nefarious scheme to inflate hopes, only to then turn and attack the weakest of the straw-man arguments that they, themselves, posed.  Regardless, as we get closer to the election, I think it’s important to recognize what the Proposition actually proposes to do, and what it doesn’t propose to do.  This short audio clip from Steve Proffitt on the Madeleine Brand Show (Prop 19 Explainer) very succinctly describes some of the realities (and some of the unrealities) of the initiative, but even that level of detail seems a little beside the point.

 

 

It’s worth remembering that even when a law is clearly written, and narrowly focused, it’s subject to legal challenges and amendments and alterations.  It’s relatively rare to find a law passed by initiative that doesn’t continue evolving long after it’s been approved by voters.  Voters don’t really have the power to dictate the aftermath, or the specific implementation – just the broad thrust of the proposed law.  In other words, you can vote to end the prohibition of marijuana by voting for Prop 19, but you can’t vote to control what happens afterwards.   But isn’t that enough to make it a law worth voting for?

Regardless of what happens afterwards, shouldn’t we all be able to agree – based on the evidence already in front of us – that marijuana prohibition has been a stupid policy, based upon demonstrably-false claims, producing demonstrably-bad results?  I’d remind those Rand scientists that, regardless of what the Mexican cartels might do if marijuana prohibition ends, they haven’t exactly been the best of neighbors during prohibition.

I'm not voting based upon what these guys will or won't do.

The truth is, no one knows exactly what the specific collateral effects of ending prohibition will be – all we can know is what we already have.  The feds might react angrily, or they might not – but the way the behave now isn’t good.   The individual counties and cities might create smart controls and regulations, of they might not – but the way they deal with marijuana use right now isn’t good.  The Cartels might double-down on marijuana production, or they might not – but they’re killing people for marijuana right now.

 

Stupid feds, murderous cartels, keystone kounties – none of that is addressed by the law that California voters will vote on.  The upcoming vote is about trying to end prohibition here and now, or not.  All the rest of the talk is just noise.

 

 




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