Tag Archives: USA

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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What The Rest Of The World Thinks Of US

U.S Military Forces in Bosnia - Operation Joint Endeavor

Paul Waldman provides timely perspective on how the rest of the world feels about U.S. military action since 1963:

Some of these operations worked out very well, others didn’t. And just to be clear, this history doesn’t tell us whether bombing Syria is a good idea or a bad idea. But if you’re wondering why people all over the world view the United States as an arrogant bully, reserving for itself the right to rain down death from above on anyone it pleases whenever it pleases, well there you go. It doesn’t matter whether you think some or even all of those actions were completely justified and morally defensible. From here, we tend to look at each of these engagements in isolation, asking whether there are good reasons to go in and whether we can accomplish important goals for ourselves and others. But when when a new American military campaign begins, people in the rest of the world see it in this broader historical context.

If you take a longer look at the list he provides (and do some basic math), you’ll find that the United States has launched one significant overseas assault every three years since 1963 — or every 40 months. Kevin Drum laments how little of this resonates with the American people:

Too many Americans have a seriously blinkered view of our interventions overseas, viewing them as one-offs to be evaluated on their individual merits. But when these things happen once every three years, against a backdrop of almost continuous smaller-scale military action (drone attacks, the odd cruise missile here and there, sending “advisors” over to help an ally, etc.), the rest of the world just doesn’t see it that way. They don’t see a peaceful country that struggles mightily with its conscience and only occasionally makes a decision to drop a bunch of bombs. They see a country that views dropping bombs as its primary means of dealing with any country weaker than we are.

Considering the rate at which we’ve launched bombs against foreign states the past 50 years, we’re actually ahead of schedule for the next round. It’s only been two years since Libya.

(Photo: U.S. military forces in Bosnia — operation Joint Endeavor, by Expert Infantry)

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EU Threatens To Suspend Data Sharing With The U.S. Amid Spying Reports

Worn out European Union blue flag

Unsurprisingly, Europeans are kind of upset about being spied on by the United States:

(Reuters) – The European Union is threatening to suspend two agreements granting the United States access to European financial and travel data unless Washington shows it is respecting EU rules on data privacy, EU officials said on Friday.

The threat reflects European disquiet about allegations that the United States has engaged in widespread eavesdropping on European internet users as well as spying on the EU.
(…)
The European Parliament, some of whose members have long worried that the agreements granted the United States too much access to European data, called on Thursday for the scrapping of both accords unless Washington revealed the extent of its electronic spying operations in Europe.

Many of the eavesdropping reports were based on leaks by fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Much of this is probably political pandering. The fact is, all states engage in cyber-intelligence against allies and enemies alike, but the U.S. does it bigger and better than the rest (as far as we know). The European Union is unlikely to make a real stink of this, since many of its members are one leak away from being accused of similar practices; compounded also with the fact that the EU needs the U.S. far more right now than the U.S. needs the EU.

But politicians in Europe have to seem rightly indignant against the spying revelations, so threats like this will probably persist for some time.

(photo by flickr user horia varlan)

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An Independence Day Poem

Kansas Summer Wheat and Storm Panorama

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat—the deckhand singing on the
steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench—the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter’s song—the ploughboy’s, on his way in the morning, or at the noon
intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother—or of the young wife at work—or of the girl sewing
or washing—Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

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Meet The 46 Guantánamo Detainees Never To Be Tried Or Released

Guantanamo jog

One of the more elusive questions about the fate of Gitmo prisoners is how many of them are actually dangerous, and thus considered too dangerous to release or prosecute in a court of law under any circumstances? Thanks to a bold move by The Miami Herald, with the help of Yale Law School students, in their joint suit of the Defense Department under the Freedom Of Information Act, we now know how many prisoners are likely going to die in Guantánamo, never having a trial, or hope for release:
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Why Edward Snowden Did Not Commit An Act Of Civil Disobedience

Senator Rand Paul is just one of the many to laud Edward Snowden for leaking top secret NSA documents, but here he is taking it one step further, describing Snowden’s leaks as an act of civil disobedience:

I do know that committing civil disobedience is a — is a big step forward and history has treated people in various fashions. Some people who commit civil disobedience have been treated heroes, some have not.

Joel Brenner educates the senator on the true meaning and history behind “civil disobedience”, and compares that to Snowden running away from the consequences of his actions:
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The Best Of The Week On Left And Center

The most popular posts this week were The Youth Of Today Basically Can’t Read Anymore, Cato’s really awesome New Atheism’s Problem Is Our Problem Too, What Happens To Women Who Can’t Get An Abortion, and finally, my rant against the President’s plan to arm Syrian Rebels, titled Obama Caves On Syria, Betrays Us All.

Other popular posts from the week were Mnemosyne’s cogent argument about Why Authoritarian Leaders Can Have All The Fun But Not Get Away With It, my takedown of the now famous NSA leaker Edward Snowden: Neither Hero Nor Whistle-Blower, and Cato’s explanation about how The U.S Federal Government Is Making You Fat.

Other noteworthy posts that were lost in the haze of a crazy week were Drugs and Prostitutes: State Department Style, a new revelation out of Hong Kong that led me to ask Is Edward Snowden Handing Materials Over To China?, and finally, the newly posted Lord of the Rings analogy of the Iranian presidential election, Why It Doesn’t Matter Who Wins The Iranian Election.

Thanks for stopping by,

Publius

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Edward Snowden: Neither Hero Nor Whistle-Blower

By now, anyone with even a remote interest in current affairs is well aware of the story of Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee and ex-CIA analyst behind Glenn Greenwald’s series of leaks about NSA surveillance programs, both foreign and domestic. Some laud him as a hero, others as the greatest whistle-blower of the age.

Jeffrey Toobin echoes my own feelings when he calls Snowden nothing more than a grandiose narcissist, and proceeds to put his actions into context:
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Your Daily Quote

Military Police Practice Medical Evacuations [Image 2 of 3]

My family is now largely a part of the America that now exists amid two ongoing overseas conflicts and feels little direct personal connection with the men and women who form the nation’s warrior class. An all-volunteer military makes possible American military interventions regardless of national consensus; absent a draft, the national opposition to an unpopular military adventure is marginal and muted. But at the same time, a volunteer military also leaves only a portion of America to experience the reality of war and sacrifice, while the rest of us disconnect.

That schism for me, personally, would be altogether complete but for the handful of U.S. Marines who I had the opportunity to meet and experience as a result of my involvement with Generation Kill. Some of these young men have continued to serve overseas in various capacities, and so, I have learned to read the headlines and watch the television with some measure of consciousness and worry. But I am being dishonest if I regard this as anything but a happenstance that resulted from an unlikely film project. By and large, the reality of wartime America lands hard among only military families. The rest of us are free to opt out.

David Simon, on our national divide.

(Photo by flickr user DVIDSCHUB)

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Formidable, but not Assured: on Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Candidacy

Hillary Clinton

Anyone that tries to argue that Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t going to be one heck of a serious presidential candidate should be ignored, full stop. If she runs, she has the best chance of winning of anyone, plain and simple.

But equally remiss would be to assume that her undoubtedly high polling numbers are going to carry her to a landslide win. Yes, her history as a mostly lauded Secretary of State, influential US Senator and engaged First Lady are all factors that are going to make her hard as hell to beat by any Republican, let alone a Democrat, but while her polling numbers have been hovering around the 60 percent mark for a while now, they’ll almost certainly be coming down to earth very soon.

One bonus to being Secretary of State is that regardless of the political machinations going on in and around Washington, Hillary was able to maintain a cloak of separation. Her purview was foreign affairs, and despite the Benghazi “scandal”, the majority of Americans believe she executed her office well. Insulation plays a huge role in polling numbers, and Hillary has historically seen hers rise and fall depending on her level of political engagement:

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Nate Silver thinks that as we get closer to election season, the scales will balance:

It’s easy to be popular when nobody is criticizing you — and there was a long period, from the closing stages of the 2008 campaign through most of her tenure as secretary of state, when Republicans had little interest in attacking Mrs. Clinton directly. Now that Republicans have chosen to engage her again, her numbers are coming down. The largest decline in her ratings, as Ed Kilgore noted, has come from Republican voters, with a more modest decline among independents and almost none at all among Democrats. This is what happens when a politician returns to being in the partisan fray after having drifted above it for some time.

Again, Hillary is still a very strong, very scary presidential candidate. She’s going to do a whole heck of a lot better than Obama did with the traditionally Democratic white Southerners (yes, they exist and no they didn’t vote for Obama), and her support among Appalachians could make the crucial difference in Florida and Pennsylvania – which, if carried, would sew up the election for the Democrats immediately. But don’t bank on the idea that she’s going to run the table and massacre the Republicans with a 450 electoral vote landslide – it’s unlikely that it’ll happen and it’s extremely dangerous to believe that it can. The negative Hillary ads have already started (you stay classy, Karl Rove), and once the Republicans get around to creating their anti-Hillary platform, her super-majority American support will fade away.

Assuming of course, the Republicans finally chose a candidate worth worrying about.

(Photo by flickr user Veni)

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Your Daily Quote

Stéphane Hessel painted portrait - Indignez-vous _DDC3126Stéphane Hessel painted portrait – Indignez-vous! (cc photo by Theirry Ehrmann

“The worst possible outlook is indifference that says, “I can’t do anything about it; I’ll just get by.” Behaving like that deprives you of one of the essentials of being human: the capacity and the freedom to feel outraged. That freedom is indispensable, as is the political involvement that goes with it.”

Stéphane Hessel, Indignez-vous!

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The Weekly Roundup

24 | May | 2013

The Unblinking EyeThe Unblinking Eye: Taken at the October 24th, 2012 campaign event of Governor Mitt Romney at Reno, Nevada (cc photo by Darron Bergenheier)

Friday on Left and Center, Publius shared some background to the new Wikileaks documentary, discussed how California gave Obamacare some really, really good news, argued that the Republican Party can no longer honestly call itself a party of conservatism, mitigated a debate between Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald on whether or not the London beheading of a British soldier could be categorized as terrorism, and had a good laugh at a photographer’s hilarious depiction of toy storm troopers.

23 | May | 2013

Obama at the John S. Knight CenterObama at the John S. Knight Center (cc photo by Beth Rankin)

Thursday on Left and Center, Publius unearthed the government’s war on whistleblowers, considered a damning opinion by Martin Wolf on austerity, saw Mnemosyne weigh the efficacy of corporate self-regulation, relayed President Obama’s speech on the future of the war on terror, and shared a wonderful photograph of Wadi Rum – Jordan.
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When conservatism left the Republican party

The Unblinking EyeThe Unblinking Eye: Taken at the October 24th, 2012 campaign event of Governor Mitt Romney at Reno, Nevada (cc photo by Darron Bergenheier)

Jonathan Chait does a really fantastic profile of 28 year-old Bloomberg columnist Josh Barro, who he labels as the “loneliest Republican”. What’s been a startling and troubling political trend these last few years has been how the Republican party has openly and damningly retreated from pretty much every single policy ground they once stood on. Parties evolve and ideologies adapt, but that’s not necessarily what’s happened to the so-called “conservative” party. Leaving aside the “why this happened?” for another time, the truth of the matter is that if you’re a policy wonk, and hold yourself to be a conservative – assuming you’re honest with yourself – you don’t really have a political home anymore.
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Unearthing the government’s war on leakers

Obama at the John S. Knight CenterObama at the John S. Knight Center (cc photo by Beth Rankin)

“The public has been inundated for more than a week now with a tidal wave of news about the crackdown on government whistle-blowers who leak classified information to journalists and reporters. The government secretly seized the phone records of more than a hundred AP journalists just last week, and a few days ago it accused Fox News journalist James Rosen with accepting classified information from a government source – whilst also seizing the phone records of Rosen’s parents. Within all these developments, a larger debate has arisen: how can a government tasked with accounting for the national security of a nation operate to its most efficacious degree whilst also affording journalists their constitutional right to operate freely?
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Ben Bernanke blames Congress for economic stagnation, to their faces.

BernankeBen Bernanke (cc photo by Medill DC)

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s message to lawmakers today – in what was his first testimony in front of Congress in three months – was simple: if you lot weren’t involved, we’d be golden.

He didn’t actually say that – since it’d be political suicide and besides that, Bernanke is a polite guy – but that’s the basic premise of his opening remarks. His statement goes on to point out how while state and local government have adapted well to fiscal measures aimed at expanding growth, “fiscal policy at the federal level has become significantly more restrictive.” He goes on to list exactly how Congress has negatively impacted the economy:

“In particular, the expiration of the payroll tax cut, the enactment of tax increases, the effects of the budget caps on discretionary spending, the onset of sequestration, and the declines in defense spending for overseas military operations are expected, collectively, to exert a substantial drag on the economy this year.”

Translation: please get out of the way.

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