Tag Archives: laws

Legalizing Pot Is Pretty Much The Most Popular Thing In America, Besides Freedom

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Yesterday, Gallup reported that for the first time ever, a solid majority of Americans (58%) are in favor of legalizing marijuana. For some perspective, consider that Gallup has been asking respondents about this question since way back in 1969, and never have they recorded a clear majority like this.

Barro went looking for some comparisons, to further emphasize the good news:

More Americans want to legalize marijuana than think President Obama is doing a good job (44%), want to keep or expand Obamacare (38%), favored attacking Syria (36%), support a 20-cent gas tax increase to pay for infrastructure (29%), or like the Republican Party (28%).

And legal marijuana has more than five times as many supporters as Congress does (11%).

Drum considers the shocking upwards trend of support for pot legalization, and marks 2020 as the date to look forward to (my italics):

I have a rule of thumb that favorability ratings need to reach about 65 percent before you hit a tipping point where a major social change starts getting codified into law nationwide. There’s nothing magic about this threshold. It’s just a general sense based on previous issues similar to this. And as you can see, public opinion isn’t merely rising on marijuana legalization, it’s accelerating. The rate of increase has gone from about 0.5 points per year in the 90s to 1.5 points in the aughts to 4 points so far in the teens. If this keeps up, we’ll pass the 65 percent threshold by 2016 or so.

And Andrew Sullivan – rightly – champions the news as further proof of societal norms “adjusted to empirical reality”:

Being gay went from being a crime to being a citizen in my lifetime. Now, smoking or vaping the harmless, ubiquitous drug, marijuana, is beginning to be thought of as indistinguishable from drinking the much more harmful, ubiquitous drug, alcohol.

What the two reforms also have in common, in my view, is adjusting our social norms to empirical reality. It was always absurd to think of gay people as somehow outside the norms of love, commitment and family. It is empirically insane to treat pot as having no conceivable medical use and classified in the most dangerous category there is. And yet our government proved itself incapable of adjusting to reality on both blindingly obvious questions, until the people long moved past it.

Well, Tocqueville is proven right again, isn’t he?

Indeed, he was.

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Eight Democrats Who Voted Away Food Stamps Received $6.3 Million From Farm Industry

One basic, unalterable truth about government is that with enough money, you can buy votes. Nowhere is this more blatantly true than the esteemed House of Representatives, whose members are pushed and pulled and operated like marionettes on a daily basis. Republicans and Democrats may not agree on much, but they both sure as heck love a good campaign contribution, and are willing to set aside pretty much every single principle they hold as human beings and legislators to get them.

That’s certainly the case with these eight, cowardly Democrats who joined House Republicans in voting down food stamps. Together, they’ve accepted a staggering $6.3 million in campaign contributions from the farming industry:

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Further solidifying the effect of money on voting patterns is the fact that the five Republicans who voted alongside Democrats to uphold food stamps have received little to no financial contribution from the same industry.

So now that you know the names of these money-run defectors, the only thing left to do is vote their disgraceful kind the hell out of office.

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Texas Republican Thinks Rape-Kits “Clean Out” Pregnant Victims Of Rape And Incest

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Texas, the state which gave us George W Bush, Rick Perry, and Friday Night Lights (ok, that one is pretty good), just passed one of the nation’s most wide-ranging packages of abortion restrictions on Monday that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, require abortion doctors to have admitting privleges at nearby hospitals and limit the practice of abortions to surgical centers. In short, Texas is making it impossible for 37 out of the states 42 abortion clinics to exist. Advocates (Republicans) claim that the measure will improve women’s health, while opponents (most Democrats) argue that making access to safe abortion nearly inaccessible can only lead to undue harm for women in the state. The package has to pass the state’s senate, then Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. But let’s be honest here: it’s Texas, it’ll pass.

During the grueling debate on this issue Sunday night, Rep. Jody Laubenberg, R-Parker — the bill’s sponsor — got herself into some trouble when she responded to Democrat Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s call for an exemption for women who were victims of rape and incest by arguing that such an exemption is unnecessary since women get “cleaned out” with “rape-kits”:
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Most politicians survive scandals

Georgetown University’s Dan Hopkins and George Washington University’s Danny Hayes and John Sides offer an empirical perspective showing how while scandals make it harder for a politician to get re-elected, the blow is rarely fatal.

Between 1973 and 2010, Democrats accounted for 63 percent of scandals, Republicans the remaining 37 percent. Does that mean that we have one party of angels (Republicans) and one party of devils (Democrats)? Probably not. The divide is due at least in part to the fact that Democrats held more House seats over the four decades of the study.

Basinger then categorized the scandals into four types: financial, corruption, sex and political. (There’s also a residual category for offenses like illegal drug use, trespassing and DWI.)
Thirty-seven percent were financial scandals, by far the most common. Corruption, sex and political scandals each accounted for less than 20 percent. For all the attention to the Bill Clintons, Chris Lees and Anthony Weiners of the world, it might seem surprising that sex scandals aren’t the most frequent type. But it looks like Biggie was right: Mo money, mo problems.

So what’s the outcome? Turns out that incumbents that are tainted by a scandal are more likely to retire from their posts, receiving all due benefits to retirees. They’re also likely to lose in primary elections where members of their own party will swoop in and take advantage of the fragility of their base. But here’s the kicker: about 7 out every 10 scandal clad politicians make it to the general election, where their scandal ridden past becomes a far less damning element. In comparison, 9 out of 10 scandal free incumbents make it to the general election. So the scandal does a little damage, sure, but it’s not a killer blow. 8 out of 10 scandal fueled politicians win reelection when they make it to the general. 6 out of 10 find themselves back in Congress once they’ve been kicked out.

Not every scandal is created equal: (see what I did there?)

They vary in scope and importance, as well as the amount of attention they receive. A widely publicized scandal about clear financial or criminal wrongdoing likely will be more difficult for an incumbent to overcome than an obscure technical violation involving Federal Election Commission paperwork.

So this raises two possibilities. Either Americans are genuinely forgiving people, which would be nice and rosy, or they’re generally forgetful and uninformed people, which is much more likely. Either way, if Mark Sanford wins the election next month for a seat in Congress, he’ll join the pantheon of other scandal clad politicians to already do so.

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Laugh Break!

We’ve been talking a lot about contraceptives recently, so when I came across this today I had to share it for our daily laugh break! Here’s Amy Schumer on Plan B.

Sorry.

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Abortion might be headed back to the Supreme Court

Yesterday I wrote this about the divergence of opinion regarding abortion and marriage equality, and in that piece I shared details of the new, draconian law passed by North Dakota, which came a few weeks after a similar law in Arkansas banned all abortions as early as 12 weeks in.

In an interview with Sarah Kliff, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard shared some thoughts regarding the legal landscape regarding abortion rights:

Sarah Kliff: Tell me a bit about what the restrictions we’re seeing out of North Dakota mean. What does it say about the state of abortion rights in 2013?

Cecile Richards: I’d say that North Dakota is now the most unsafe state in the nation. Their governor has become the poster child for the most anti-woman [legislation] in the country. He has effectively banned access to safe and legal abortion. The bill is not only outrageous but unconstitutional. As a health-care provider, we know the impact it has on women to no longer have access to legal abortion. Lives are being put in jeopardy.

Here are her thoughts on abortion being taken, yet again, to SCOTUS:

SK: What would it mean if one of these bans went to the Supreme Court?

CR: I assume something will [go to the Supreme Court]. I hope the Supreme Court will honor judicial precedent, that this is a right women and men have had for 40 years and won’t let it [be taken] away.

Publius

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Gay marriage at SCOTUS – Day 2

Arguments have wrapped up after nearly two hours in United States vs. Windsor, better known as the DOMA case (Defense of Marriage Act). Here are some updates from SCOTUSblog:

Here’s an interesting one

Sullivan on the case:

This strikes me as a more important and winnable case than yesterday’s and a victory would be huge – for federalism and for equality. It would, for example, immediately grant social security benefits to my husband were I to be run over by a truck; it would enable bi-national gay couples who are married in an equality state to stay together. And it offers the potential for a liberal-conservative alliance – conservatives for federalism, liberals for equality.

Like I did yesterday, i’ll catch you up on the specifics of the case heard today. Courtesy of Dylan Matthews:

United States v. Windsor concerns Edith Windsor, who was widowed when her wife Thea Spyer died in 2009. Windsor and Spyer were married in 2007 in Canada after being partners for 40 years. Windsor was forced to pay $363,053 in estate tax on Spyer’s estate, which she argues she would not have to pay if she had been Spyer’s husband. Thus, she claims, the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents her from being considered Spyer’s spouse for the purposes of federal taxes, literally cost her $363,053.

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Like the Prop 8 case, both the district court and circuit court ruled in favor of gay rights. Here’s a brief summary of the defendants (those defending DOMA):

The Obama administration has declined to defend DOMA, and so the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), a standing organization in Congress, took over the law’s defense at the instruction of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Finally, here are the arguments to be considered by the justices:

The first is the equal protection issue, which is much the same in content as in the Proposition 8 case. The second is whether the fact that the executive branch agrees with Windsor means that there isn’t a real controversy in this case, meaning the court doesn’t have jurisdiction. The third is whether BLAG would be harmed by DOMA being overturned, and thus whether it has standing to defend the law (a friend-of-the-court brief by Harvard professor Vicki Jackson argues that even Congress doesn’t have standing, and even if it did, BLAG wouldn’t).

A ruling that focused on the second two issues would affirm the lower courts’ rulings and effectively void DOMA only in New York, or other states where courts have ruled it unconstitutional. But a substantive ruling would void DOMA everywhere.

More updates as they come…

I’ve been on the fence regarding the appropriate manner of affording marriage equality. Is it better for the Supreme Court to just mandate that it’s legal? Or would it be beneficial for them to invalidate Prop 8 and DOMA, then leave it to the states to organically, democratically legalize it?

One reason i’m now leaning away from gradualism is that I don’t believe the backlash will be so bad that marriage equality would suffer any long term harms. Another reason, and perhaps more importantly, is what Cohn stresses here regarding what would happen in the Southern states, should SCOTUS not intervene:

With evangelicals slower to change their minds, Southern states should move at a slower pace than the national average. To date, support for gay marriage has increased at a roughly linear rate of 2 points per year. But it’s possible that increases in support could slow in the medium-term, as non-evangelical groups hit the point of diminishing returns. If evangelicals don’t pick up the slack by shifting faster on gay marriage, support for gay marriage could plateau. Parts of the South, Plains, and West would probably still have gay marriage bans, and the Supreme Court, despite its hopes to avoid a judgment, might be forced to make the final call.

Here is the transcript of the oral arguments heard today, and along with it the audio.
Publius

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Sullivan on Charlie Rose

Here’s a short, impacting excerpt from Andrew Sullivan’s conversation with Charlie Rose, on the subject of gay marriage.

The full interview can be found here

– Publius

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