Marijuana Grows Up

[ Posted Monday, January 26th, 2015 – 17:57 PST ]

Marijuana just keeps growing. That's a weak attempt at a punny metaphor for which I apologize (hey, I could have used some variation such as "growing like a weed," so I did exercise a little restraint...), but its deeper meaning is that marijuana is actually outgrowing such cheap jokes and entering the realm where it demands to be taken seriously -- especially by politicians. Marijuana is now the nation's fastest-growing industry. The legal marijuana industry brought in $2.4 billion last year, so it's certainly no longer any sort of laughing matter. That figure represents an increase of a whopping 74 percent in one year's time, and it is estimated that the total legal market could be worth $11 billion as soon as 2019.

This news is all contained in the third annual "State of Legal Marijuana Markets" report from The ArcView Group, described as "a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California." The Huffington Post has a good overview of what the report contains, complete with some very interesting charts projecting the size of the possible future legal marketplace. These projections seem just a wee bit optimistic to me, assuming (for instance) that the following states will legalize adult recreational use either this year or in 2016: California, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maryland. By 2020, the projection adds Montana, Hawai'i, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware to this list. This would make a total of 18 states to fully legalize, which (as I said) may be slightly optimistic.

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Friday Talking Points [333] -- Obama Steals GOP's Honeymoon

[ Posted Friday, January 23rd, 2015 – 18:21 PST ]

I have to apologize right here at the start, because that headline is not original. Credit should go to Chuck Todd of NBC, who stated during the State Of The Union coverage this week that President Obama had stolen the traditional post-election "honeymoon" period with the public right out from under the Republican Party's feet. We found this such an apt metaphor that we decided to run with it, so: "Thanks, Chuck!"

Most of our article today is going to deal with Obama and his speech, ending with the snappiest portions as this week's talking points. But before we get to that, let's take a quick look at what the Republicans have been up to, as well as some other minor political news of the week.

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The 55 Limit

[ Posted Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 – 17:50 PST ]

Sammy Hagar, famously, couldn't drive 55. The double-nickel Hagar sang about was the national speed limit, in miles per hour. The Republican Party is about to find out that there's a new 55 limit in Washington, and it's going to cause some Hagar-level rage on its own. Because 55 senators is not the same as 60, or 67. This simple mathematical statement is about to confound the GOP's entire strategy for the next two years.

To put this a little less cryptically, it's beginning to look like the biggest political battles over the next two years won't be fought between Democrats and Republicans, or even President Obama and Republicans. The big fights are likely to erupt between the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans. Because while the House can be driven by Tea Party or right-wing extremism, the Senate will not be able to successfully operate in such a fashion. The only route open to Senate Republicans is going to be some form of compromise, and we all know that compromise is a very ugly word to House Republicans.

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Home-Field Advantage

[ Posted Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 – 18:24 PST ]

Because it is both playoff season in the football world and State Of The Union season in the political world, I felt it was high time to mix a metaphor or two. Because even though we're at the very earliest stage of the 2016 presidential race, it seems like the Democrats are pretty close to locking in "home-field advantage" on the subject of wages and inequality in America. By which I mean Democrats will be debating Republicans on very familiar territory for the Democratic Party, and very foreign soil for the Republicans. As in sports, this in no way guarantees a victory in "The Big Game," but it certainly does help the Democrats' chances.

While President Obama's "middle class economics" speech last night certainly laid down a few markers for Democrats in 2016 and beyond, the real reason it now seems Democrats will be playing on familiar turf comes from Republicans. There may be multiple reasons why there has been such a dramatic shift in Republican rhetoric in the past few weeks, but the shift is undeniably noticeable and drastic. One of the big reasons Republicans are now complaining about economic inequality is that Mitt Romney is thinking about making one last try, and he got burned so badly last time around because he kept saying laughably plutocratic and out-of-touch things on the campaign trail (the most memorable being his rant against the "47 percent," of course). Mitt at least seems halfway serious about mounting another bid for the White House now, and he's obviously talked to a few advisors about the image problem he had last time, so he's shaken his own personal Etch-A-Sketch and drawn a new picture of compassion for the poor and champion of the middle class. How well this will work is anyone's guess, really, since all things are possible in the political world. But that seems to be where the Republican trend started -- with Mitt re-inventing himself one more time.

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Morning In Obama's America

[ Posted Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 – 22:22 PST ]

Listening to President Barack Obama's State Of The Union speech tonight, I couldn't help but think that he's been waiting a long time to give such a speech, and he was happy to finally be giving it. Finally he could speak of the economy without having to hedge his language. Finally, he could unleash his inner optimism once again.

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Embracing Populism

[ Posted Monday, January 19th, 2015 – 18:14 PST ]

Trying to predict what the next presidential election will "be all about" is usually a fool's game, especially when it's still so far in the future. The main theme of a national election can turn on a dime, due to a major world event or even due to the public's fascination with one unforeseen minor topic. But, at least for the time being, the 2016 election seems to be shaping up as a race centered on economic populism. This may change at any point, as I said, but I couldn't have been the only one who was utterly astonished to hear that Mitt Romney recently told a group of conservatives he might just run on a platform of helping the middle class and attempting to eradicate poverty in America. If even Mitt Romney (of all people) is now expressing Republican concern for the poor, then something has indeed radically shifted in our political debate. Up is now down, topsy is getting downright turvy, and Mitt Romney is now a populist!

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Friday Talking Points [332] -- Getting Ready For Obama's Big Speech

[ Posted Friday, January 16th, 2015 – 17:58 PST ]

This was a busy week in politics, as the Republicans in the new Congress began a bout of legislating and President Obama ramped up his agenda in preparation for next Tuesday's big speech to Congress and the country. So let's just dive in to the week that was, shall we?

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California's Jungle Primary Needs To Be Tamed

[ Posted Thursday, January 15th, 2015 – 17:25 PST ]

Even though I live and vote in California, there's a fact which keeps slipping my mind. I've written a number of articles already about Senator Barbara Boxer stepping down, and I never even took this fact into account while writing them, for instance (and for which I apologize, if I said anything flat-out wrong in them). This is nothing more than simple denial, I'll admit, because I dislike this new fact so much that I'm doubtlessly intentionally forgetting about it in the hopes that it will go away. I speak of the new primary voting system our state has instituted, the "top two" or "jungle" primary. Now that Barbara Boxer has announced she will not be running for another term as senator, the issue is about to get a little higher profile, because 2016 will be the first time the new system is used for an open Senate race.

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Obama Bouncing Back

[ Posted Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 – 17:37 PST ]

In less than a week, President Obama will give his State Of The Union speech to Congress and the nation. Sitting presidents usually get a bump in the polls immediately afterwards, since it is always the most-watched political speech of the entire year. But what's interesting to note, one week out, is that Obama is already enjoying somewhat of a bounce in his job approval polling. What's more, Obama seems poised to rise even higher in public approval, since the next issue teed up for a major political battle is one where Obama's stance is a lot more popular than the Republican position: immigration reform. All in all, ever since his forceful response to the midterm elections, Obama seems to be getting more and more popular.

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First Faux Obama Scandal Of The Year

[ Posted Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 – 18:20 PST ]

Looks like we have a winner for the prize of "first completely GOP-ginned-up Obama 'scandal' of the year," folks. Last night NBC News led their evening broadcast with the story, which they judged to be more important than "U.S. military gets hacked by terrorists." In other words, we're back to chasing shiny, shiny objects rather than reporting actual news. Happy new year, from Brian Williams!

The story, in case you don't know what I'm talking about, is that President Obama didn't jump on a plane and join in the march in support of Charlie Hebdo which happened over the weekend in Paris. This is a ridiculous non-story, but that certainly didn't stop the Republicans from assuming full-on freakout mode about it. The crocodile tears, in fact, fell like rain in Republican circles. This was nothing short of sheer opportunistic political hypocrisy, which was evident for the following reasons:

(1.) Republicans were complaining about President Obama over nothing, once again.

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